The 5,780 TEU APL England was rolling and pitching heavily in rough seas and high winds when it lost 50 containers overboard about 46 nautical miles south-east of Sydney on 24 May 2020, Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in its preliminary investigation report. While investigation is ongoing, the initial findings suggest heavy corrosion in many of the ship fittings, including lashing eyes, lashing bridges and deck structures.
The APL England was travelling down the east coast of Australia, when the Bureau of Meteorology issued regular forecasts regarding a complex low pressure system developing off the south-east of the country, with gale force wind warnings.
“By 0600 on Sunday 24 May, while maintaining a southerly course and a speed of about 7 knots, the ship was pitching and periodically rolling in high seas and gale force winds,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood.
Shortly after, at 0610, the ship experienced a series of very heavy rolls, to about 25° either side of upright. On the bridge, with many items moving and falling to the deck and the crew holding on to maintain their footing, steering system and engine room alarms sounded, and then the main engine shut down due to a loss of oil pressure.
The report details that the crew restarted the engine, by which time the ship had turned to port, beam on to the seas, while continuing to roll heavily. The ship slowly gathered speed, and was turned easterly and then southerly, into the weather, before the crew then decided to head north, with the weather.
It was not until skies had lightened that the chief officer first noticed the fallen stacks of containers.
It was later established that 50 containers had been lost overboard from both forward and aft bays. One container lost overboard contained hazardous goods in the form of dry powder fire extinguishers, while 23 containers were empty. A further 63 containers were damaged but remained onboard.
Shortly after, ATSB transport safety investigators investigated the vessel at the Port of Brisbane.
Generally, the ship’s lashing equipment appeared in good condition. However, many of the ship fittings including lashing eyes, lashing bridges and deck structures were found to be heavily corroded and wasted, noted Mr Hood.
In addition, the ATSB examination of the container stowage arrangement showed that the use of ‘high cube’ (2.9m/9ft 6in high) as opposed to standard height (2.6m/8ft 6in) containers in the ship’s aft-most container bay, bay 62, affected the security of the stow above the container cell guides. However, the loading computer’s lashing and forces checks did not show any conflicts for this arrangement.
The on-going investigation is expected to review and analyze several areas of interest including the ship’s container stow and lashing arrangement; the maintenance regimes for the ship’s deck and engine room; the ship’s service and inspection history; the ship’s stability condition; weather conditions and information provided to crew; and the actions of the ship’s crew.
Download the preliminary investigation report: Preliminary ATSB investigation report suggests heavy corrosion led to APL England loss of containers