Orica has stored about 3000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate on the cargo ship MCP Kopenhagen, which is sitting off Newcastle. Photo: Brockwell Perks
A shipload of potentially explosive chemicals sitting off Newcastle was given the all-clear by a federal agency, the NSW government says.
Chemicals manufacturer Orica loaded about 3000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate on to the cargo ship MCP Kopenhagen seven days ago for storage while the company carries out maintenance at its Kooragang Island plant.
NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) was responsible for approving the chemicals' offshore storage, not the NSW government.
"The vessel set sail on Saturday morning after all the safety boxes were ticked by AMSA," Ms Parker said in a statement today.
"Orica ... sought approval to travel from AMSA, and AMSA approved this," Ms Parker said.
An AMSA spokesman said eight operational deficiencies identified on the ship were fixed before the vessel sailed.
None of the deficiencies related to the carriage of dangerous cargo, and none was serious enough for AMSA to detain the vessel, the spokesman said.
"A dangerous goods inspection was completed, at which all requirements for safely carrying ammonium nitrate were satisfied," the spokesman said.
NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney, who is to visit the Port of Newcastle today, said she would call on Premier Barry O'Farrell and Ms Parker to explain why the explosives were being stored on the ship.
She said she wanted to know how long the cargo would remain aboard after the ship returned to the state-operated port in a few days' time.
Orica said it would undertake large-scale scheduled maintenance of its Kooragang Island ammonium nitrate plant from early next month.
Orica's Australia Asia General Manager James Bonnor said claims of anything irregular about the cargo arrangements were "ill founded".