Ship’s fittings in poor condition prior to loss of 50 containers off Sydney

  • ATSB found fixed container securing arrangements on APL England were in poor state of repair and corroded, prior to loss of 50 containers in heavy seas off Sydney.
  • APL has reviewed and repaired container fittings on APL England and across the rest of its container fleet.
  • APL has implemented safety action regarding passage planning and navigation in bad weather; procedures were not followed during this incident.

A final report into the loss of containers from a ship off Sydney in 2020 notes the importance of vessel fixtures being regularly maintained to ensure they are secure and stable.

Container ship APL England was making way down the east coast of Australia on 24 May 2020 when, in adverse weather, it underwent a series of heavy rolls that resulted in the loss of 50 containers overboard, and shutdown of the main engine.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s investigation found the ship’s fixed container securing arrangements on deck were in a poor state of repair and the strength of many securing fixtures was severely reduced by corrosion.

“Our investigators found this condition would have taken several years of poor maintenance to develop,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said.

“This showed the ship had not received the scrutiny from crewmembers, shore management, or other agencies that a ship of its age or condition required.”

In addition, the investigation found procedures for adverse weather were not followed.

“Had these procedures and associated assessment tools been used, navigational and operational decisions could have been made, which would have better prepared the ship for the conditions encountered,” Mr Mitchell said.

Since the incident, fixtures on the APL England were repaired, and deck and container fittings on all other vessels in the APL fleet were inspected and repaired as required.

APL also implemented additional safety action regarding planning and navigation in heavy weather.

“This incident should be a reminder to all ship masters and crews of the importance of adhering to the cargo securing manual, and of following specific procedures and guidance material ahead of – and during – adverse weather,” Mr Mitchell said.

Mr Mitchell also welcomed an update in July 2022, from shipping classification society DNV, to include a new section in the relevant Class Guideline providing requirements on the allowable wear and tear of container supporting structures and container securing equipment.

You can find here the report: MO-2020-002 Loss of containers overboard from APL England 46 NM south-east of Sydney, New South Wales on 24 May 2020

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