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Photo courtesy of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

The vessel APL England has been detained in Australia over inadequate lashing, after losing 40 containers overboard off the coast of Sydney on Sunday.

After the vessel docked in the port of Brisbane, an inspection by the the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) revealed lashing arrangements for cargo were “inadequate” and securing points for containers on the deck were “heavily corroded.”

AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said: “These findings constitute a clear breach of a requirement under SOLAS to ensure that a ship and its equipment are maintained so as not to present a risk to the safety of the ship itself or anyone on board.

“The detention will not be lifted until these serious deficiencies are rectified. That is now a matter for the ship’s owner, American President Lines (APL), and operator to rectify.

“These findings will form part of AMSA’s ongoing investigation and, while we do not want to pre-empt the outcomes of that investigation, it is already clear that the risk of this container loss occurring could have been reduced.”

While the 5,510 teu APL England is owned by APL/CMA CGM, subsidiary ANL is its charterer and operator.

ANL said the ship had suffered a brief loss of propulsion approximately 40 nautical miles off the Gold Coast, having nearly completed its voyage from Ningbo to Melbourne. The loss of containers resulted in cargo, including face masks, washing-up on popular Sydney beaches this week and some boxes still floating out at sea, while a further 74 were reportedly damaged.

Mr Schwartz said AMSA expected the shipowner and its insurer, Steamship Mutual, to “take full responsibility for remediating any impacts of this incident”.

He added: “We’re pleased to hear today that the insurer is engaging contractors to retrieve some of the floating containers.”

Frazer Hunt, partner with law firm Mills Oakley, which represents local marine insurers, told The Loadstar the incident was similar to other recent stow collapses where “other factors than poor weather will almost certainly be involved”.

Given the vessel’s detention, Mr Hunt said it was “hoped and anticipated that carriers will settle claims for lost or damaged cargo at an early stage”.

Comparisons have been made to an incident involving the YM Efficiency, which lost 81 containers in Australian waters during heavy weather in June 2018.

However, Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director at TT Club, said while weather had been a key factor with YM Efficiency, the ultimate findings pointed to failures in stowage planning and control, particularly container stacking.

This, said Mr Storrs-Fox, would be “quite different” to APL England’s inadequate lashing arrangements, “if indeed that is ultimately found to be the cause of this latest incident”.

“The complex range of ‘moving parts’ in containership operations have the consequence that similarities and differences in incidents are difficult to piece together in order to formulate coherent solutions,” he explained, noting TT Club’s involvement in creating the SOLAS VGM regulations on cargo mass declarations.

“Such cargo specific matters inevitably interact with shore- and ship-based processes related to stowage planning that themselves link to issues of physical lashing.

“Then there are operational decisions, such as weather routing, general seamanship and mechanical variables. These represent some of the lines of enquiry that are likely to be followed in seeking to establish causation,” added Mr Storrs-Fox.

In January, a row over who undertakes lashing operations at European ports broke out between dockworkers and European feeder and shortsea operators, with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) arguing that seafarers should not be involved due to safety issues.

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