Charges have been laid against the master of the APL England, which lost about 50 containers overboard off Sydney on Sunday (24 May 2020).

Container ship APL England off Brisbane after losing 40 containers off NSW South Coast en route to Melbourne.

The offences relate to pollution and/or damage of the Australian marine environment as a result of poor cargo loading.

The Master of the APL England appeared before the Wynnum Magistrates court on 1 June 2020 to face two charges relating to the loss of containers from the ship,

  1. Section 26F of the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 – Discharging of garbage into the sea contrary to the Act
  2. Section 141 of the Navigation Act 2012 – Master did not ensure that the vessel was operated in a manner that did not cause,
    • pollution to the marine environment in the coastal sea of Australia or the exclusive economic zone of Australia and,
    • damage to the marine environment in the coastal sea of Australia or the exclusive economic zone of Australia

These charges carry maximum penalties in excess of $300,000.

The matter was adjourned to 12 June in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

The APL England remains under detention in the Port of Brisbane and will not be released until its serious deficiencies have been rectified.

The unloading of the damaged containers has started and is expected to take several days to complete.

AMSA General Manager Operations Allan Schwartz said laying charges against the ship’s Master was not undertaken lightly.

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 ship owner APL Singapore, insurer Steamship Mutual, and operator ANL who remain accountable for remediation of any impacts of this incident.

We welcome 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.”

Mr Schwartz said the ship remained under detention in the Port of Brisbane and would not be released until its serious deficiencies have been rectified.

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 $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.”

Ship Detained

On Wednesday (27 May) AMSA General Manager of Operations Allan Schwartz said the authority’s inspection of the ship was ongoing but had already revealed that lashing arrangements for cargo were inadequate and securing points for containers on the deck of the ship were heavily corroded.

The detention follows the loss of about 50 containers off Sydney on Sunday.

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 ship,” Mr Schwartz said.

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), and operator to rectify.

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.”

Mr Schwartz said AMSA expected the ship owner and its insurer, Steamship Mutual, to take full responsibility for remediating any impacts of this incident.

We’re pleased to hear news today that the insurer is engaging contractors to retrieve some of the floating containers,” Mr Schwartz said.

ANL Commits to Remove Debris Washing Ashore from Containership

ANL, operator of container vessel APL England, confirmed that the vessel is berthed at the Port of Brisbane and is working with authorities investigating the incident.

The company said that 50 containers fell from the vessel during the storm on 24 May.  The contents of these containers include a range of consumer goods, some of which have washed up on the New South Wales coast. 

ANL apologised for any inconvenience caused, and will work to retrieve cargo which fell overboard where feasible.  As previously announced, Varley Group as well as Avcon Projects, both of whom have expertise in environmental clean-ups, are removing debris and containers that reach the coast. Additionally, where feasible, floating containers will be towed back to land where they will be removed in as timely a manner as possible. Cleanup began on 27th May and will continue whilst debris continues to come ashore on the coast.

Last night AMSA’s Challenger search jet conducted an aerial survey of the New South Wales coastline to assist in locating and identifying semi-submerged containers in the water. The flight identified two targets which have been assessed as comprising of five containers (including one set of four containers locked together).

Containers floating off NSW coast east of Norah Head on Wednesday (27th May 2020).