CHARGES have been laid against the master of the APL England, which lost about 50 containers overboard off Sydney last week, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has announced.

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

AMSA general manager operations Allan Schwartz said laying charges against the ship’s master was not done 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,” Mr Schwartz said.

“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 at Port of Brisbane and would not be released until “serious deficiencies” had 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,” he said.

“This action seeks financial security from the insurers in the order of $22m. 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.”

Earlier, the number of containers that fell overboard was revised upwards from 40 to 50.

As reported in Daily Cargo News, the ship lost containers overboard during an incident south-east of Sydney.

Vessel operators ANL issued a new statement on Friday (29 May), indicating the higher number.

“At this point, it has been identified that 50 containers fell from the vessel during the storm on 24 May,” an ANL spokesperson said.

“The contents of these containers include a range of consumer goods, some of which have washed up on the New South Wales coast.”

More than 70 containers on the vessel also incurred damage without falling overboard.

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The ANL spokesperson said the company was “committed to maintaining high environmental standards throughout its operations and we apologise for any inconvenience caused”.

“ANL continues to work closely with the relevant authorities to retrieve cargo which fell overboard where feasible,” the spokesperson said.

Environmental clean-up specialists Varley Group and Avcon Projects are removing debris and containers from 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,” the spokesperson said.

“This work commenced on 27 May and will continue whilst debris continues to come ashore on the coast.”

The incident may already have implications for insurance and TT Club risk management direct Peregrine Storrs-Fox contrasted this incident with that of the YM Efficiency two years ago.

“It is clearly early days in the investigation, but it would appear to me that there are material differences from the YM Efficiency incident already in relation to the findings,” Mr Storrs-Fox said.

“For YM Efficiency the weather was certainly a key factor, but the ultimate findings more relate to failures in the stowage planning processes and controls, particularly relating to container stack loadings,” he said.

“The initial investigations into the APL England case point to ‘inadequate lashing arrangements for cargo and heavily corroded securing points for containers on the deck’, which if established are quite different, albeit that weather was again a key factor.”

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