40 bags of debris collected from Cronulla and Kurnell beaches after shipping containers debacle

More than 40 bags of debris have been collected from Sutherland Shire beaches since dozens of containers were washed off a cargo ship off the NSW coast.

Council lifeguards and volunteers began a clean-up from Cronulla to Kurnell after noticing items being washed up in the night tides from Tuesday night last week.

The APL England was en route from Ningbo, China to Melbourne when it lost the containers in rough seas south-east of Sydney about 6am on Sunday May 24.

Clean-up teams have been working along a large stretch of NSW coast.

Sarah-Jo Lobwein, co-founder of Sustainable Organisations of Sutherland Shire (SO SHIRE) said much of the debris was believed to have come from smashed containers, but other items would have had local sources, particularly storm water run off.

"The items found included entire packets, single items and broken pieces of single use face masks, packets of plastic takeaway containers for Coles brand , packets of panko crumbs, packets of insulation and parts of the actual metal containers," she said.

"The worst issue we noticed is all the foam insulation from inside the broken containers.

"It can be hard to spot as the plastic material is camouflaged with the sand and resembles marine sponge."

Ms Lobwein said the debris was reported, with images, to Transport for NSW Maritime.

They have advised members of the public, who see any suspected debris or shipping containers to contact the NSW Maritime Info Line 13 12 36 or report via email to

SO SHIRE advises people picking up debris from beaches at any time should wear gloves and, if possible, log data with Tangaroa Blue Foundation AMDI via or via the phone app

"SO SHIRE will be back to running regular public clean ups once social isolation restrictions ease, hopefully in time for our planned annual Plastic Free July clean up with Sea Shepherd on July 5," Ms Lobwein said.

NSW Maritime A/ Executive Director Alex Barrell said, despite gale force winds and hazardous surf conditions forecast to continue into at least tomorrow, about 100 people were continuing to clean up debris and containers along the NSW coast.

There were multiple salvage sites between Port Stephens and the Illawarra, he said.

"The safety of boaters is paramount and we ask that caution is taken if heading out on the water as floating debris can be a navigational risk," he said.

"Over the long weekend, variable messaging signs will be at key locations to remind the boating community to remain vigilant for any floating or submerged containers.

"Of the 50 containers lost overboard, 24 were empty refrigerated containers and 26 contained a variety of goods.

"Sixteen containers are now accounted for - either recovered and disposed of by our crews, or in the process of being recovered and disposed of. All except one of these is an empty refrigerated container.

"The shipping container which washed up on rocks south of Maroubra Beach on Sunday has now been dismantled and removed for safe disposal.

"With many containers still unaccounted for we still have a big job ahead of us."

The master of the APL England has been charged with pollution and damaging marine environment.

Charges were laid by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which said the spill was a result of poor cargo loading.

The authority ordered the shipping company to pay $22 million to cover estimated costs of the clean-up before the vessel can leave Brisbane.