Australian Maritime Safety Authority is looking into reports of an oil spill off the north Queensland coast.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority is looking into reports of an oil spill off the north Queensland coast. Contributed

MSQ inspects "oily patches" found off Reef in north Qld

7:30 PM 

MARITIME Safety Queensland has confirmed patches of oily water have been sighed in water south of Townsville on Friday afternoon. 

A water police vessel out of Townsville and Emergency Management Queensland helicopter investigated and reported a sheen on the water and small oily patches about 1 metre in diameter.

An Australian Maritime Safety Authority specialised aircraft out of Cairns is being tasked for an early morning inspection on Saturday of the ocean area and also of the islands and coastline in the general areas.

A Maritime Queensland Spokesperson said they have oil pollution resources and staff on standby if required in Townsville and other ports. 

AMSA, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Maritime Safety Queensland are working cooperatively on the issue. 

There will be a telephone hook-up tomorrow mid-morning to consider information reported from the  morning flight. 

This meeting will also further consider response options.


4:00 PM Reports of oil spill off Great Barrier Reef

AN investigation is underway into unconfirmed reports of an oil spill near the Great Barrier Reef south of Townsville.

While details are scant, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transport and Main Roads said the investigation has not yet confirmed reports of "the presence of any oil".

The department, which oversees Maritime Safety Queensland, is also understood to have reported the matter to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

One Customs helicopter searched the area where the oil spill was reported earlier this morning, but was unable to located the report spill.

The spokeswoman said the department was now arranging a second aerial helicopter flight this afternoon.

"We've also tasked the Queensland Water Police vessel from Townsville to do an on-site inspection," she said.

"Ships passing through the area have been asked to keep a lookout for the reported oil."

The spokeswoman said one vessel had already passed through the area today, but did not see any oil.

While oil spills near the reef are rare, the federal government is still battling in the courts for compensation five years after the last large major spill, from the Shen Neng One grounding, which struck a reef near Gladstone in 2010.

The investigation continues.