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Environment Protection Authority

EPA fines Qube Ports Pty Ltd for water pollution in Newcastle

Media release: 20 September 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Qube Ports Pty Ltd $15,000 after fertiliser was spilled into Newcastle Harbour.

This is the third time Qube has been fined by the EPA for a water pollution incident. On all three occasions, Qube employees have used bucket cranes to unload fertiliser from vessels but, due to poor cargo handling practices and inadequate environmental controls, fertiliser spilled into the harbour or was placed in areas where it could be washed, blown or fall into the harbour.

NSW EPA Acting Hunter Region Manager Karen Marler said it was unacceptable that Qube had not rectified its behaviour after the first two offences but that the company had now taken steps to improve its practices.

“Since the company was issued with this fine, Qube has taken positive action, including training staff to better understand how to prevent water pollution,” Mrs Marler said.

“Poor handling practices and inadequate environmental controls are contributing to high nutrient levels in the harbour and Hunter River. Fertiliser spills can cause algal blooms and harm and disrupt estuarine ecosystems.”

EPA officers observed the latest breach during unannounced inspections of Qube’s unloading of urea from a vessel at the Kooragang No. 2 Berth between 29 July and 2 August 2016.

“The EPA will continue to inspect cargo handling operations to ensure Qube and other stevedores handle products like fertiliser properly and keep environmental impact front of mind in all of their harbourside operations,” Mrs Marler said.

The EPA also met with Port of Newcastle Operations, Qube and the Kooragang Berth 2 Port user group to reinforce the need for better management of material loading operations to prevent these type of incidents occurring.

Qube was fined under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 for water pollution.

Penalty notices are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s enforcement work visit


Contact: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 20 September 2016