Cruise company faces big removal bill

A PONTOON moored in Round Hill Creek at 1770 could cost the owners $20,000 to have it removed from the creek.

The owners, Panforta Pty Ltd, which operates as Lady Musgrave Cruises, were taken to court last week by Maritime Safety Queensland to have orders made to have a derelict pontoon removed from Queensland waters.

The tour company's lawyer said the business was struggling financially and had been in the process of selling the pontoon when the buyer decided to postpone the sale due to the coronavirus.

A report tabled in Rockhampton District Court on May 6, 2020, states the pontoon was unseaworthy and in "very poor condition with serious defects" including severe corrosion damage effecting the hull integrity.

It also has severe structural corrosion to the point the pontoon is at risk of breaking up and/or sinking; water ingress through corrosion of the deck; and significant penetrations of the deck, which was weakening its structural integrity.

The pontoon was also collecting water in void spaces with no viable pumping equipment installed to remove the water when a MSQ officer inspected it on March 27, 2019.

The pontoon is used as a maintenance platform to service other company vessels.

The Harbour Master issued a direction to Panforta on July 18, 2019, in emergent circumstances, which expired on August 6, 2019.

In the Risk Assessment, the report stated the vessel was continuing to decay, causing debris to be released into the environment.

Lady Musgrave Cruises was the company behind the stricken Spirit of 1770 vessel, which burst into flames with 46 passengers on board in May 2016.

Later that year, the company was before the Bundaberg Magistrates Court accused of letting garbage from the pontoon escape into waters off Lady Musgrave Island on or about April 7, in breach of the Transport Operations (Marine Pollution) Act 1995.

The complaint alleged waste material consisting of "rust flakes, timber waste, cutting disk and cut-off bolts" was "allowed to escape from the ship" within three nautical miles of Lady Musgrave Island.

On January 10, 2015, 135 passengers were forced to make an emergency exit from the Spirit of 1770 after it ran aground on the rocks at the mouth of Round Hill Creek on its way back to the marina.

On October 24, 2014, almost 150 tourists were turned away after the captain and crew refused to take the ship out for the day over a disagreement between crew and management, which saw the skipper sacked.

Judge Michael Burnett ordered a restraint on Panforta entering any agreement to sell or transfer ownership of the pontoon until it was removed from Queensland waters as directed on July 18, or a further order of the court.

He adjourned the matter until June 3 with further matters to be dealt with at a future hearing.