The captain of a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker has been convicted and fined $3,000 AUD in Australia after waiting several hours to report that his ship had suffered a main engine failure and was adrift off the coast of Queensland, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has announced.
The incident leading to the conviction took place last January 31, 2019, when the tanker tanker Asphalt Spirit suffered a main engine breakdown while approximately 30km northeast of Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island during a voyage from Korea to Australia with 14,000 metric tons of asphalt.
According to the AMSA, the ship’s master waited six hours after the initial engine failure to report the incident, via email, to the ASMA. The ASMA said modeling predictions showed that the ship was in danger of running aground on along the southern tip of the island within 17 hours if the ship continued to drift without power.
The ship’s master eventually responded to AMSA about 3.5 hours after his initial email and confirmed the engine damage could not be repaired at sea. Meanwhile, AMSA had already arranged for a tug from Brisbane. The ship’s insurer eventually arranged for a private commercial tug from Svitzer to rendezvous with the tanker and tow it back to Brisbane.
On December 9, 2019, the master pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to one count of failing to report a marine incident to authorities without delay, as required by section 11(1) of the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983. He was later fined $3000.
“The responsibility to report a marine incident to authorities without delay and the consequences for failing to do so, ultimately rests on the shoulders of the ship’s master,” said AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley.
“We have reporting requirements in the maritime industry for a reason. Authorities need to know if you are in trouble so they can provide assistance where possible to resolve the problem before it leads to a catastrophe. Without intervention, the incident with the Asphalt Spirit could have been an environmental disaster. It goes without saying that the reluctance from the master and company management to report the incident to AMSA with the urgency that it warranted, is completely unacceptable. Failure to report a marine incident without delay places the safety of your ship and crew, as well as our precious marine environment, at further risk and it could result in a conviction that will follow you for the rest of your career,” Kinley added.