APL England heads for Chinese repair yard

APL England discharged its containers. Credit: AMSA

After discharging its cargo, the 5,510 teu APL England is en route to Zhoushan, China, for repairs, after agreeing to a AUD22.5 million (USD15.4 million) Australian cleanup operation.

The Singapore-flagged vessel lost 50 containers in heavy seas off the Australian coast on 24 May. Another 75 containers were badly damaged, many tottering over the edge of the ship and threatening to dislodge.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) cleared APL England to leave Port of Brisbane after an inspection on 19 June.

The ship’s master has been replaced and returned to Malaysia on bail of USD40,000, awaiting trial on multiple charges of pollution or damage to the Australian marine environment.

Steamship Mutual, the vessel’s insurer, has made a written undertaking to cover costs agreed or imposed by a court.

Meanwhile, tendering has commenced for a sonar search of about 1,000 km2 from the Illawarra to Sydney’s southern suburbs where multiple containers are suspected to lie.

The Australian National Line (ANL), part of the CMA CGM Group, alongside APL, said the company and its insurers were committed to work quickly to clean up any remaining debris coming ashore.

“It’s a big ongoing job that we intend to keep progressing,” said Xavier Eiglier, CEO of ANL, noting the company had worked with local authorities and council to clean 45 beaches to date.

Eiglier thanked the crew of APL England, who received support and assistance in port.

“Our crew are also very important to us,” he said. “We are grateful for their maritime experience that enabled the vessel to reach Brisbane safely.”

He also thanked Qube Ports team, fire services, Svitzer pilotage, and port personnel in Brisbane “for pulling together so quickly in response to the incident to get the vessel safely into port and discharge all cargo. This is a great example of how our industry works together”, he said.

ANL arranged alternate vessels to deliver containers and goods from damaged containers after the vessel departed.

Most of the containers sunk to a depth of 3,000 m and are unlikely to pose a danger to other vessels, he said. So far, 15 containers have been recovered.

AMSA CEO Mick Kinley welcomed the company’s early response.

“While it’s unfortunate that this incident occurred in the first place, the early response by the owners and their insurers has been welcomed,” said Kinley.