Container list reveals sunken treasures off Newcastle from Yang Ming's YM Efficiency

TWO Chevrolet Silverados worth a combined $300,000 are sitting on the ocean floor somewhere off the coast of Newcastle, according to documents detailing the contents of containers lost from the YM Efficiency last year. 

The container manifest, obtained exclusively by the Newcastle Herald under freedom of information laws, reveals the array of products lost at sea when the ship struck bad weather last June.  

The previously unreleased information finally sheds light on what was in the containers that fell overboard. 

To date, only small plastics, yoga mats and food products have washed ashore at locations along the NSW coast spanning Merewether to Coffs Harbour. 

Some of the more bulky items lost include electric scissor lifts, commercial laundry machines, industrial vacuum cleaners and stacks of mountain bikes.

TRASH: Products washed up in Port Stephens last June.

TRASH: Products washed up in Port Stephens last June.

The bikes were one of the products commercial fishers had reported seeing in the weeks after the incident. 

One item that would have caught the eye of authorities when they first viewed the cargo list was the chemical sodium polyacrylate. 

More than 40 tonnes of it was stored in two containers. 

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority told the Herald this week sodium polyacrylate was a non-toxic polymer and of the products lost it was less of a concern. 

“The most serious environmental concern for AMSA is the large amount of plastics contained in the lost containers in the form of consumer products and packaging,” an AMSA spokesperson said. 

“Sodium Polyacrylate is a functional polymer, a type of plastic.

"It is not a dangerous or hazardous good and is commonly used as an absorbent in products such as nappies and pet pads."

The product can absorb and lock away huge amounts of water hundreds of times its mass, and is commonly used as a thickener in hair gels and in jelly-filled cold packs that are placed in the freezer.


Five containers lost held pre-engineered and manufactured bathroom pods, which are becoming popular in commercial buildings to reduce construction time and lower costs. 

Massive amounts of toilet paper and kitchen paper towel, which would have faced a tough time staying absorbent in the Tasman Sea, were packed into at least nine containers.

Medical supplies, glassware and china, office chairs, car and auto parts, and noodles were some of the other products that went astray. 

When the clean up began almost immediately after the maritime incident last year, one of the most removed items off the beaches in Port Stephens was plastic containers of Emu Oil. 

The owner of the YM Efficiency, Taiwanese shipping company Yang Ming, said at the time of the incident it would “take full responsibility to recover and to minimise the impact to the marine environment”.

When the company made no attempt to instigate a search and recovery effort, AMSA intiated a search for the containers that began in December. 

SEARCH: Subsea contractors at Nelson Bay in December. Picture: Ellie-Maree Watts

SEARCH: Subsea contractors at Nelson Bay in December. Picture: Ellie-Maree Watts

Contractors have been using remotely operated underwater vehicles over the past couple of months to confirm the locations and assess the condition of the containers. 

“AMSA is currently working with maritime experts to assess the condition of the containers and their suitability for recovery and removal,” the spokesperson said. 

“All the lost cargo is of concern as marine pollution and hazards for fishing.

“AMSA maintains that the responsibility for removal of the containers and mitigation of any environmental impacts remains with the shipowner Yang Ming and their insurers."

A final report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau about the YM Efficiency container spill will be released in the second quarter of 2019. 

The AMSA inspection operation is continuing.