CONTAINER losses on ships off the Australian coast highlight the need for sustainable shipping, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says.

World Maritime Day is 24 September and this year’s theme of Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet is fitting for 2020, AMSA acting CEO Sachi Wimmer said, noting that reducing marine pollution was a priority for Australia.

“In the last two years, major container spills from international ships have polluted Australian waters with plastic packaging and other harmful materials and this is in addition to ongoing pervasive pollution from plastics,” Ms Wimmer said.

“In May this year we successfully completed the largest shipping container spill clean-up in Australia’s history following the disastrous container spill from YM Efficiency back in 2018, which left more than 80 containers strewn across important fishing grounds off Newcastle,” she said.

“Just weeks later and under very similar circumstances, APL England dropped dozens of containers off Sydney. For weeks, face masks and other plastic materials washed ashore on some of Australia’s most treasured beaches, including Bondi.”

Ms Wimmer said prevention was crucial.

“We have a world-leading system for responding to pollution incidents from shipping, but preventing such incidents from happening in the first place is just as important as reacting to them and we will be working with our international partners in the International Maritime Organization to do this,” she said.

Ms Wimmer said it had been a year of environmental, human health and economic crises, and the shipping industry had not been immune.

“We are facing major challenges, from international shipping disasters to the impacts of COVID-19 on crew changes, but the spirit of cooperation and strength for which the maritime industry is well reputed, will ensure we rise to meet them,” she said.

“The three pillars of sustainability are environmental, social and economic and all of these are manifesting as challenges now.”