APL England after losing containers off the coast of Australia. Photo: AMSA

APL England Cargo Loss Report: Ship’s Fittings Found in Poor Condition

Mike Schuler
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December 16, 2022

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued its final report into the loss of containers from the APL England off Sydney, finding that the ship’s fittings were in poor condition.

The APL England lost 50 container overboard as it was making its way down the east coast of Australia in adverse weather on May 24, 2020. The ATSB said the ship experienced a series of heavy rolls—about 25 degrees in both directions—which resulted in the shutdown of the main engine and subsequent cargo loss.

APL England at the time was loaded with 3,161 containers, equating to 5,048 TEU, and was sailing on a voyage from Ningbo, China, bound for Sydney, when the accident took place.

Following the cargo loss, the vessel sailed to Brisbane where it arrived the following afternoon and was detained by authorities. An Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) inspection revealed that the cargo lashing arrangements were “inadequate” and securing points for containers on the deck of the ship were heavily corroded.

Preliminary Report Sheds Light on Container Loss from APL England

The ATSB’s investigation concurred, finding that 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,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell. “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.”

Photo courtesy AMSA

The ATSB investigation also found procedures for passage planning and navigation in bad 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,” Mitchell said.

A post-accident analysis of the APL England’s speed, wave period and the angle between the ship’s course and the wave direction showed that the vessel was susceptible to parametric rolling. For several hours preceding the loss of containers, the ship experienced several bouts of rolling, precipitating a number of course changes and hand steering to attempt to reduce the amount of rolling and pitching.

At 0610, as the APL England was located 46 nautical miles south-east of Sydney, the ship underwent a series of very heavy rolls, which activated steering system and engine room alarms and led to a main engine shut down due to a loss of engine lubricating oil pressure. After a few minutes, the main engine was restarted and the chief mate turned the ship into the weather, slowly gathering speed on a steady 165° heading.

Crew members noticed the fallen stacks forward and aft when the sun came up about 40 minutes after the loss of propulsion.

APL England arriving into Brisbane on the afternoon of May 25, 2020. Credit: ATSB

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,” Mitchell said.

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.

Read 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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