THE Australian Transport Safety Bureau says it has started the evidence-gathering phase of its investigation into the loss of containers from APL England, an incident that occurred on Sunday morning about 70km east-south-east of Sydney.

Originally bound for Melbourne from Ningbo, the ship has headed north to South East Queensland.

“ATSB transport safety investigators with marine engineering, deck officer and data recovery qualifications and experience are preparing to meet the vessel when it arrives in port in the coming days to survey the container stacks, inspect any damage to the vessel, interview the crew, and download data from the voyage data recorder,” the ATSB stated.

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“Investigators will also analyse weather information, review the ship operator’s loading systems, and interview other directly involved parties.”

A preliminary report is to be released in about a month after the initial evidence-gathering phase is finished.

A final report is expected to be released in about 18 months’ time. 

“At any time during the investigation, should a critical safety issue be identified the ATSB will immediately notify relevant stakeholders so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken,” the ATSB stated.

AMSA surveyors start work

Meanwhile, surveyors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority have done a seaworthiness inspection to check the structural and operational condition of the ship following the collapse of container stacks on the deck.

AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said the seaworthiness inspection would help inform if, and how, the ship might be brought safely into Port of Brisbane.

“We expect to have the outcome of today’s seaworthiness inspection and confirmation of the next steps by [Wednesday] morning. We are working closely with our partners at Maritime Safety Queensland,” Mr Schwartz said.

“Once the ship is safely in port we will begin our investigation which will focus on the safety of the ship including whether cargo was appropriately stacked and secured on board the ship, and any potential breaches of environmental pollution regulations.”

Mr Schwartz said while it was still unclear exactly which containers had fallen overboard, initial indications were the affected stacks contained a wide range of goods such as household appliances, building materials and medical supplies.

“No dangerous goods appear to be in the areas affected by the collapse of container stacks and AMSA is working closely with the ship’s cargo agent to confirm exactly which containers went overboard,” Mr Schwartz said.

“We have received a report of some medical supplies (face masks) washing up between Magenta Beach and The Entrance. This information has been passed onto NSW Maritime,” he said.

“These correlate to drift modelling of debris and are consistent with items listed on the ship’s cargo manifest.

“Under the National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies, the NSW government has lead response for shoreline clean-up. AMSA will support NSW in their response. Modelling suggests that debris such as this could continue to wash-up over the coming days.”

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