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Photo courtesy of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Australia has put containership operators and masters “on notice” of a new inspection campaign targeting cargo securing.

Following recent incidents resulting in containers being lost overboard, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has vowed to inspect every cargo ship calling at Australian ports between August and October.

It said incidents like the 81 containers lost by YM Efficiency in 2018 and the 50 lost by the APL England in May had caused “significant damage to Australia’s iconic marine and coastal environment”.

“Incident investigations by AMSA discovered improper stacking and securing of cargo, and poor maintenance of securing equipment, is likely to have been contributing factors to these incidents,” it noted.

AMSA acting general manager of operations Michael Drake said vessels visiting Australia must comply with the international cargo securing standards laid out in Chapter VI of the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention.

“We have seen the serious consequence of improper cargo securing arrangements in the form of tonnes of plastic and other debris washing up on our beautiful beaches and floating in our oceans,” said Mr Drake.

“Rusted cargo securing points, improper lashings and exceeding stack weight limits have all contributed to these incidents, and ship operators should be on notice that non-compliance will not be tolerated in Australia.”

AMSA detained the APL England, and before allowing it to sail on to China to undergo repairs on 19 June the vessel’s operator, ANL, and insurance company, Steamship Mutual, had to commit to paying fines and other costs up to A$22m (US$15.5m). The clean-up is still going on, with 15 of the 50 containers so far recovered.

The APL England’s master is facing multiple charges relating to “pollution and damage of the Australian marine environment due to poor cargo loading”, and AMSA has warned all masters to expect ship inspections for the next three months.

“Where vessels are found to be non-compliant, AMSA will take steps to bring the ship into compliance before it is able to continue operating,” Mr Drake said.

Meanwhile, amid the crew change crisis, shipping lines could also run foul of AMSA should they call Australian ports with crew who have served longer than 14 months. Shipping Australia warned that vessels could be detained, thereby disrupting the country’s container supply chains.

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