The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is responding to an incident involving the loss of about 40 containers overboard from the Singapore-flagged container ship APL England off the New South Wales coastline.
The incident happened just after 6.10am AEST yesterday (Sunday 24 May) when the ship experienced a temporary loss of propulsion during heavy seas about 73 kilometres south east of Sydney.
At the time, the ship was on a journey from Ningbo, China to Melbourne, Australia.
The ship’s power was restored within a few minutes but during this time the ship reported that it was rolling heavily, causing container stacks to collapse and 40 containers to fall overboard in waters about 2km deep.
The Master of the APL England has reported that an additional 74 containers have been damaged and remain collapsed on the deck of the ship, while a further six containers are reported to be protruding from starboard side and three containers from the port side of the ship.
The ship has turned around and is now heading toward Brisbane, Queensland. AMSA will be inspecting the ship, once the destination Port has been confirmed, upon its arrival.
AMSA’s Challenger jet was tasked overnight to look for containers and debris in the water and inspect the ship for any signs of damage or pollution. Some containers were spotted in the water however efforts were hampered by bad weather and poor visibility. The ship has not reported any damage to the hull.
The Challenger has returned to the ship today, currently located 20km east of Byron Bay, to conduct another search for containers and debris and reinspect the ship.
AMSA is conducting extensive drift modelling today and working with New South Wales Maritime about potential shoreline impacts and Maritime Safety Queensland around potential use of Brisbane Port. Initial modelling from last night suggested that if there was any floating containers or debris it would likely wash up to the north of Sydney.
At this stage no sightings of containers or debris along the shoreline have been reported and more extensive drift modelling will be conducted today factoring in the Challenger’s observations in better weather.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has been notified and has confirmed it will investigate the incident.
This is not the first incident involving container losses from the APL England. The APL England previously lost 37 containers in the Great Australian Bight in August 2016 due to heavy rolling in rough seas. While the vessel was under totally different management at that time, this is another example of the need for crews and operators to ensure cargo is carried, and ships are operated, to prevent this sort of pollution of the marine environment.