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Container stack collapses prompt AMSA focus on boxship losses

A series of high-profile container losses off the coast of Australia has prompted the maritime authority to introduce a focused inspection campaign from 1 August for container vessels calling at Australian ports.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the campaign will run until 31 October and will target cargo securing arrangements on foreign container ships operating in Australian waters, which are required to have cargo securing arrangements approved under regulation 5 of Chapter VI of SOLAS.

“Incidents like the losses of 81 containers off Newcastle by the YM Efficiency in 2018, 50 containers off Wollongong by the APL England in May and three containers from the Navios Unite off Cape Leeuwin in June have caused significant environmental damage to Australia’s iconic marine and coastal environment. These events affect the livelihoods and safety of commercial fishers and, more broadly, communities across Australia,” said AMSA.

According to AMSA, the purpose of the campaign is twofold, firstly “to draw the attention of ship owners and operators to their obligations under Chapter VI of SOLAS in respect of regulations 2 and 5; and secondly, to “provide a specific inspection focus on the use of cargo information as well as stowage and securing of unitised cargo.”

Focused inspections for container stowage will be carried out with port state control (PSC) inspections, but any data derived from those inspections will not be shared on PSC databases, unless the inspector believes there is ground for a full PSC inspection.

Nevertheless, where ships are found to be non-compliant with SOLAS regulations AMSA said it will take steps to make certain that the vessel is brought into compliance before it continues operations.

AMSA Acting General Manager of Operations Michael Drake said, “We have seen the serious consequence of improper cargo securing arrangements in the form of tonnes of plastics and other debris washing up on our beautiful beaches and floating in our oceans.”

Drake blamed “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.”

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