THE AUSTRALIAN Maritime Safety Authority has issued what it says is the most severe banning to date to the master and operator of the Marshall Islands flagged livestock carrier Barkly Pearl (IMO 9042295).

The vessel was initially spotted on 3 November 2020 travelling through Australia’s northern waters with a large hole in the hull.

Due to concerns over the structural integrity of the vessel, the potential threat of pollution to the marine environment and the immediate risk to the seafarers’ safety, AMSA issued an intervention direction instructing the vessel to the nearest safe harbour at Geraldton, where AMSA detained the vessel.

For the past two months, has AMSA worked with its ship inspectors and the vessel owners and operators to develop an appropriate repair solution.

On 7 January, the Barkly Pearl was loaded onto the MV Falcon, a semi-submersible heavy load carrier for its safe departure from Australian waters.

Livestock carrier Barkly Pearl being carried by heavy lift ship MV Falcon
WA Dept of Transport via AMSA

Before it could depart Australian waters, the Barkly Pearl was issued with a refusal of access direction notice, under section 246 of the Navigation Act 2012.

AMSA general manger operations Allan Schwartz said this means the Barkly Pearl is banned from entering or using an Australia port for 24 months.

“This is a significant decision by AMSA. It’s the first time a vessel has been banned from Australian ports for this length of time and it will certainly affect the commercial operation of the vessel,” Schwartz said.

“The Australian public has the expectation that any vessel operating or travelling through Australian waters is seaworthy and when vessels are found to be so poorly maintained, AMSA will not hesitate to use the suite of powers available to it.”

Still from AMSA Challenger footage showing a hole in Barkly Pearl's hull
Still from AMSA Challenger footage showing a hole in Barkly Pearl’s hull

Schwartz said the owners and operators of the Barkly Pearl were negligent in their maintenance of the vessel.

“[They] put the lives of the seafarers on board at risk and posed an immediate threat to the Australian marine environment,” he said.

“The appropriate course of action was for AMSA to ban the Barkly Pearl for two years.” AMSA thanked the Western Australian authorities, Mid West Ports and the residents of Geraldton for their patience during the two-month detention of the Barkly Pearl.