APL England master charged, bailed

APL England container ship. Credit: MCLEOD, GARY

The master of APL England, which jettisoned some 50 containers in heavy weather off the east coast of Australia, has been charged, bailed, and is awaiting trial.

The captain, 43-year-old Mohamad Zulkhaili Bin Alias, won a change to his bail conditions in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday, 12 June, allowing him to return home to work in Malaysia until the hearing for his case later this year.

Zulkhaili faces charges over discharge of garbage into the sea and failing to ensure the vessel was operated so as not to cause pollution or damage to the Australian marine environment.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) detained APL England when it arrived in Brisbane on 28 May, after an inspection found inadequate lashing arrangements for the cargo and heavily corroded securing points for containers on the deck.

An AMSA spokesperson told SAS that the containers that had come loose on the vessel had all now been secured and the repairs should be completed for the vessel’s release at the end of the week. A bail of AUD60,000 (USD40,000) had been paid on behalf of the master.

AMSA issued a direction on 15 June ordering the owner of the vessel to search and recover missing containers lost from the vessel within a priority search area of about 1,000 km2 stretching from the Illawarra and Sydney’s south coast.

AMSA’s general manager response, Mark Morrow, said 15 containers had been recovered from the shoreline or towed in after floating off the coast, but 35 were still missing. The containers posed an immediate environmental threat and safety hazard for commercial fishers, he said.

“The owner’s and operator’s responsibilities to clean up the mess left behind by their ship do not end at the water’s edge,” said Morrow.

AMSA has just completed an AUD20 million (USD14 million) cleanup operation two years after YM Efficiency refused to recover sunken containers off the Newcastle coast. Yang Ming’s failure to meet the cost is now before the courts.

Morrow said he expected the owner and operator of the Singapore-flagged APL England to respond to the direction with a detailed search plan in the coming days.

“Failure to comply with this direction constitutes an offence under Australian law,” he said.