Insufficient cargo planning onshore was the root cause of the YM Efficiency incident that led to the loss of more than 80 containers, according to an investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
The Liberian-flagged boxship encountered rough seas off Newcastle, Australia, on 1 June 2018, while en route to Sydney from Taiwan, when it suddenly rolled heavily. The motion placed excessive stresses on cargo stowed aft of the ship’s accommodation, resulting in the structural failure of the containers and components of the lashing system. Subsequently, 81 containers were lost overboard and an additional 62 sustained damage.
The accident led to substantial quantities of debris washing up on beaches across the state of New South Wales. At present, remote underwater surveys have identified 66 containers, with a few others close offshore or found onshore. Some 15 containers have yet to be found by search personnel.
Last year, the lost cargo became the centre of a heated dispute between shipowner Yang Ming and Australian authorities. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority had called for salvage tenders to remove the containers that fell overboard, but Yang Ming refused – arguing they were safer left resting.
In its investigation, the ATSB found that the weights and distribution of containers in the affected bays exceeded allowable force limits as set out in the ship’s Cargo Securing Manual (CSM). Investigators also found that the stowage arrangement was not checked for compliance with the CSM’s calculated lashing force limitations during the cargo planning process ashore.
Therefore, the report stated, the responsibility for compliance with these requirements fell on the ship’s officers, who had limited options for resolving deficiencies while the vessel was at sea. However, it was also determined that officers had not used the ship’s loading computer system and its lashing calculation programme as they likely did not understand the system.
“The planning process ashore offers the best opportunity to take all practical measures to ensure that the proposed stowage plan presented to ship officers complies with the CSM and is as safe as reasonably practicable,” advised the ATSB.
Yang Ming now requires lashing forces to be checked during the initial cargo stowage planning stage ashore.