Owner of the Tatemaya Maru Patrick Von Stieglitz signs the petition to rid the Whitsundays of the Tateyama Maru in April this year.
Owner of the Tatemaya Maru Patrick Von Stieglitz signs the petition to rid the Whitsundays of the Tateyama Maru in April this year. Peter Carruthers

Ship owner speaks out on 'flawed' Marine Pollution Act

FORMER owner of the Tateyama Maru in the wake of his numerous brushes with Marine Pollution Act has made a formal submission to the Law Reform Commission.

Patrick von Stieglitz has made the submission of multiple affidavits to the commission, suggesting the section 67A of the 1995 TOMPA Act is "flawed”.

Mr von Stieglitz has been charged twice under the act for failing to carry compulsory insurance.

His third encounter with the state - after the Tateyama Maru broke anchor and ran aground during Cyclone Debbie - ended with Mr von Stieglitz signing over the ship to the State Government as he couldn't pay the salvage cost of the 35-metre ship.

The state has now picked up a $1.7 million tab to remove the ship along with the Whitsunday Magic.

In his submission Mr von Stieglitz argues he was not able to comply with the act as no insurer would cover the ship without it being in survey.

To get the ship in survey would cost over a million dollars and as the Tateyama Maru is a private ship there is no requirement that the ship be in survey, Mr von Stieglitz said.

According to Maritime Safety Queensland all recreational ships more than 15 metres but less than 35 metres in length must have an insurance policy that provides $250,000 for pollution clean up and $10,000,000 for salvage and wreck removal.

The Tateyama Maru afloat again after being patched and towed from the mud at Gloucester Island.
The 55-meter former Japanese research vessel, Tateyama Maru anchored off Gloucester Island earlier this week. Pacific Marine Group

"Compulsory insurance means I should be able to walk down the street and buy the insurance exactly the same as you buy third party insurance for your car,” he said.

"But I can't buy it.

"They don't have any obligation to insure the ship if they don't want to.”

Mr von Stieglitz said there are 270,000 registered boat owners in Queensland and he expected a review of the legalisation which effectively means an owner of a boat posing a pollution risk after a maritime mishap can abdicate all responsibility and sign over the vessel to the state.

"A solution would be to have the legislation rescinded but then there is no law to govern safety at sea,” Mr von Stieglitz said.

"They can't leave 270,000 boats running around with no legislation. with my ship there is no legislation in place at all, except I had to have a rock and a piece of string.”

"I don't even have to have a captain's ticket to drive it,” he said.

MSQ stated in the case of ships which cannot reasonably obtain insurance, the ship owner may be able to seek an exemption to the insurance requirement.