Helicopter crews are searching for 31 shipping containers full of ammonium nitrate that fell off a ship in stormy conditions off south-east Queensland this morning.
The 180-metre Pacific Adventurer was carrying 60 containers of ammonium nitrate from Newcastle in New South Wales to Brisbane.
It hit rough seas and lost half its load near North Stradbroke Island at about 5:00am AEST.
One of the six-metre long containers gouged a hole in the hull of the the Hong Kong-flagged ship, causing fuel to leak into the ocean.
Three tonnes of the potentially dangerous chemical also spilt on the deck.
Earlier reports said there were 32 containers that were lost, but Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) says that number has been revised down to 31.
Tropical Cyclone Hamish, which generated the severe weather, is now a category 2 storm.
Scientific officers are on their way to meet the ship.
The ship is being guided to an anchorage at Shark Bay in Moreton Bay.
A team of scientific officers will carry out a risk assessment on the ship and provide feedback to the MSQ.
In a statement, Pacific Adventurer's owners say they are working with authorities to minimise environmental damage and hazards to other ships.
MSQ spokesman Captain John Watkinson says the ship is being guided to a secure anchorage in Moreton Bay.
"From there we'll have a look at it assess the condition see what risks are," he said.
"A search is underway for the lost cargo."
Meanwhile, Dr Michael White, from the Centre of Marine Studies at the University of Queensland, says the ammonium nitrate leak will not seriously harm the bay.
"The last time we had a really big fertiliser spill ... all that happened was the kelp grew to 30-feet and it was normally only five-feet high," he said.
However, Dr White says the containers bobbing just below the ocean's surface could pose a serious threat for small boats in the bay.
"It's a hazard then, because if especially small craft come onto it, especially in heavy weather like now, they would bash the hull against the container and probably would break up the ship," he said