Inclement Weather Leads To Cargo Loss from Containership

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A preliminary report from Australian maritime investigators into the loss of containers from the APL England says that the ship experienced heavy rolling and lost power to its main engine before crew discovered that containers had gone overboard.

The Incident

On 11 May 2020, the 5,780 TEU fully-cellular container ship APL England departed Ningbo, China, bound for Sydney, New South Wales. The ship was loaded with 3,161 containers (5,048 TEU), with a forward draught of 11.44 m and an aft draught of 13.32 m. The Singapore-flagged ship was managed by the CMA CGM International Shipping Company.

At 0610 AEST, during heavy weather, the vessel’s main engine tripped, resulting in loss of propulsion for a short time. During this period, the vessel was rolling heavily—up to 25°—causing 50 containers to fall on deck and into the sea. Sixty-three containers were damaged but remained on board.

  • The ATSB preliminary investigation report details that the container ship was rolling and pitching heavily in rough seas and high winds when it lost 50 containers about 46 nautical miles south-east of Sydney on 24 May 2020.
  • The report includes facts related to the sequence of events leading up the incident, but does not include any conclusions or recommendations.
  • The report shows that the Bureau of Meteorology issued regular forecasts regarding a complex low pressure system developing off the Australia’s south-east coast, with gale force wind warnings, as the APL England travelled down the east coast of country.

Preliminary findings

The investigation has established that 50 containers were lost overboard from both forward and aft bays.

  • One of the lost containers contained hazardous goods in the form of dry powder fire extinguishers, while 23 containers were empty.
  • Another 63 containers were damaged but remained on board.

The ship sailed to the Port of Brisbane under its own power where ATSB investigators boarded the vessel to survey the damaged container stacks, inspect the container lashing equipment, download the vessel data recorder and video recording system, and interview the crew.

The report details that the crew restarted the engine, by which time the ship had turned to port, beam on to the seas, while continuing to roll heavily. The ship slowly gained speed, and was turned easterly and then southerly, into the weather, before the crew then decided to head north, with the weather, the ATSB said.

Further investigation

To date, the ATSB has completed site inspections and gathering of evidence including interviews, documentation, data records and the ship’s voyage data recorder.

Evidence collection continues through requests directed to parties related to the incident including the shipping company, class, regulators, port authorities and weather organisations. Safety analysis of gathered evidence is on-going.

The investigation is continuing and will include review and analysis of the following:

  • the ship’s container stow and lashing arrangement
  • ship’s maintenance regimes (deck and engine room)
  • ship’s service history and associated inspections
  • relevant requirements for inspection of deck equipment for securing containers
  • ship’s stability condition
  • weather conditions and weather information provided to the crew at the time of the incident
  • available recorded data during the incident
  • actions of the ship’s officers and crew during the incident.

Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation and will detail include any safety findings or analysis.

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Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau

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