- Ship’s heavy rolling caused container stacks to collapse, with 40 boxes flung overboard.
- Sydney beaches had been forced to close after face masks and plastic containers washed up.
- It raised new questions over the accuracy of container weight declarations.
- Earlier in 2016, 36 boxes went overboard in the Great Australian Bight.
- CMA CGM announced an overweight surcharge of $150 per 20ft container with a gross weight exceeding 18 tonnes.
- Maersk plans to introduce a weight discrepancy fee.
- From 1 June, a $100 fee per bill of lading will be applied to shipments with weight variances of 5,000kg.
- The master of the ship has been arrested for the loss and slapped with charges.
According to an article published in The Loadstar and authored by Sam Whelan, a containership off the coast of Australia lost 40 boxes overboard in rough weather with cargo including face masks now washing up on beaches near Sydney.
Vessel losses propulsion
CMA CGM’s 5,510 teu APL England lost propulsion during heavy seas, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), while sailing to Melbourne from Ningbo.
The Singapore-flagged vessel was around 73km south-east of Sydney when the incident happened, and while power was restored within a few minutes, heavy rolling caused container stacks to collapse, with 40 boxes flung overboard and 74 others damaged.
AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said the lost boxes contained household appliances, building materials, and medical supplies, but nothing classed as dangerous goods.
“AMSA is working closely with the ship’s cargo agent to confirm exactly which containers went overboard,” he added.
Seaworthiness to be estimated
Local media reported popular Sydney beaches had been forced to close after face masks and plastic containers washed up.
The vessel arrived at the port of Brisbane, following a seaworthiness inspection. AMSA said it was investigating whether the cargo was appropriately stacked and secured onboard.
Mr. Schwartz added: “We need to establish if the ship has breached any Australian environmental protection regulations and or standards that apply to the safe and secure carriage of cargo. The first phase of that investigation is expected to take at least a month and may take longer.”
Repeat of incidents
This is not the first time the APL England has lost containers off the coast of Australia: 36 boxes went overboard in the Great Australian Bight in August 2016.
“While the vessel was under different management at that time, this is another example of the need for crews and operators to ensure cargo is carried and ships are operated to prevent this sort of pollution of the marine environment,” AMSA said.
Indeed, the incident could raise new questions over the accuracy of container weight declarations, following other recent containers lost at sea. For example, in February, the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch published its report into a January 2018 incident involving the then UK-flagged CMA CGM G Washington, which lost 137 containers rolling in heavy seas in the North Pacific.
Safety issues noticed
The report highlighted safety issues including the “reduced structural strength of the non-standard 53-foot containers, inaccurate container weight declarations, mis-stowed containers, and loose lashings.”
CMA CGM announced an ‘overweight surcharge’ of $150 per 20ft container with a gross weight exceeding 18 tons, on sailings from Asia to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
And last month, Maersk announced it was introducing a ‘weight discrepancy fee’, following an incident in January on the Aotea Maersk, when a container stack collapsed “due to a weight discrepancy in documentation”. From 1 June, a $100 fee per bill of lading will be applied to shipments with weight variances of 5,000kg.
The master of the arrested APL England is to be prosecuted in Australia and could be held responsible for the loss of around 50 containers lost overboard last week.
“The offences relate to pollution and/or damage of the Australian marine environment as a result of poor cargo loading,” the Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA) said in a statement today.
“Laying charges against the ship’s master is not an action we undertake lightly, but this and other incidents remind us of the important role the ship’s master has in ensuring the ships that ply our waters are operated safely and do not damage our marine environment. Today’s actions should not detract from the responsibility of the shipowner APL Singapore, insurer Steamship Mutual and operator ANL which remain accountable for remediation of any impacts of this incident,” it added.
Slapped with charges
The master today appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court to face two charges: discharging of garbage into the sea, and not ensuring that the vessel was operated in a manner that did not cause pollution to the marine environment in the coastal sea of Australia.
The offences carry maximum fines of more than A$300,000 (US$202,000). The case was adjourned until 12 June.
Additional requirements to be met by shippers
AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said: “As of today, 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 A$22m. This provides a commitment that they will remediate all impacts of this incident. That $22m covers estimated costs, including that of a clean-up.”
Containers to be retrieved
“ANL has immediately appointed Varley Group as well as Avcon Projects, both of which have expertise in environmental clean-ups, to remove debris and containers that reach the coast. Clean-up actions throughout the New South Wales shoreline will continue whilst debris come ashore on the coast,” it added.
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