Ship Captain Charged for Container Spillage!


  • APL’s shipmaster has been charged with offenses related to pollution and/or damage to the Australian marine environment.
  • Shipowner APL Singapore, insurer Steamship Mutual, and operator ANL held accountable for remediation.
  • ANL is engaging contractors to undertake shoreline clean-up and retrieve some of the floating containers.
  • The lashing arrangements for cargo were inadequate.
  • Heavy corrosion was found on the securing points for containers on the ship’s deck.

According to reports published by My Sailing and The Loadstar, charges have been laid against the master of the APL England, which lost about 50 containers overboard off Sydney.

Investigation initiated

This is the result of work between AMSA, the Queensland Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution. The offenses relate to pollution and/or damage to the Australian marine environment as a result of poor cargo loading. Laying charges against the ship’s Master is not an action to be undertaken lightly but this and other incidents remind us of the important role the ship’s Master has in ensuring the ships that ply the waters are operated safely and do not damage our marine environment.

The cargo load on the APL England was damaged during a high seas incident on May 24 that resulted in the brief loss of power on the ship and containers falling overboard. The number of containers that fell overboard has now been increased to 50 from the previous estimate of 40 containers lost overboard in addition to 74 containers that were damaged but remained aboard the APL England.

Shipowner held for accountability

The actions should not detract from the responsibility of the shipowner APL Singapore, insurer Steamship Mutual, and operator ANL who remain accountable for remediation of any impacts of this incident.

ANL taking responsibility by engaging contractors to undertake shoreline clean-up and retrieve some of the floating containers this week, but the impacts of this incident could take months, if not years to remediate and we expect these efforts to be sustained for however long it takes.

Inadequate lashing arrangements and heavy corrosion

Australia inspectors, who boarded the ship after it docked in Brisbane, determined that the lashing arrangements for cargo were inadequate and found heavy corrosion on the securing points for containers on the ship’s deck. As a result, APL England was officially detained at the port and according to the local authorities will not be released until the serious deficiencies have been rectified.

AMSA has placed an additional requirement on the owner of the ship under the Protection of the Seas Act which must be met before the ship will be released from detention.

This action seeks financial security from the insurers in the order of $22 million. This provides a commitment that they will remediate all impacts of this incident. That $22 million covers estimated costs including that of a clean-up.

Breach of SOLAS agreement

AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said: These findings constitute a clear breach of a requirement under SOLAS to ensure that a ship and its equipment are maintained so as not to present a risk to the safety of the ship itself or anyone on board. The detention will not be lifted until these serious deficiencies are rectified. That is now a matter for the ship’s owner, American President Lines (APL), an operator to rectify.

He added, These findings will form part of AMSA’s ongoing investigation, and, while we do not want to pre-empt the outcomes of that investigation, it is already clear that the risk of this container loss occurring could have been reduced.

ANL defends ship – cites the loss of propulsion

While the 5,510 teu APL England is owned by APL/CMA CGM, subsidiary ANL is its charterer and operator.

ANL said the ship had suffered a brief loss of propulsion approximately 40 nautical miles off the Gold Coast, having nearly completed its voyage from Ningbo to Melbourne. The loss of containers resulted in cargo, including face masks, washing-up on popular Sydney beaches this week, and some boxes still floating out at sea, while a further 74 were reportedly damaged.

Mr. Schwartz said AMSA expected the shipowner and its insurer, Steamship Mutual, to take full responsibility for remediating any impacts of this incident. He added: We’re pleased to hear today that the insurer is engaging contractors to retrieve some of the floating containers.

Poor weather plays spoilsport

Frazer Hunt, the partner with law firm Mills Oakley, which represents local marine insurers, told The Loadstar the incident was similar to other recent stow collapses where other factors than poor weather will almost certainly be involved.

Given the vessel’s detention, Mr. Hunt said it washoped and anticipated that carriers will settle claims for lost or damaged cargo at an early stage”.

Comparison between the previous incidents

Comparisons have been made to an incident involving the YM Efficiency, which lost 81 containers in Australian waters during heavy weather in June 2018.

However, Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director at TT Club, said while the weather had been a key factor with YM Efficiency, the ultimate findings pointed to failures in stowage planning and control, particularly container stacking.

This, said Mr. Storrs-Fox, would be quite different to APL England’s inadequate lashing arrangements, “if indeed that is ultimately found to be the cause of this latest incident”.

The complex range of ‘moving parts’ in containership operations have the consequence that similarities and differences in incidents are difficult to piece together in order to formulate coherent solutions, he explained, noting TT Club’s involvement in creating the SOLAS VGM regulations on cargo mass declarations.

Such cargo-specific matters inevitably interact with shore- and ship-based processes related to stowage planning that themselves link to issues of physical lashing. Then there are operational decisions, such as weather routing, general seamanship, and mechanical variables. These represent some of the lines of enquiry that are likely to be followed in seeking to establish causation, added Mr. Storrs-Fox.

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Source: MySailing & TheLoadstar


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