Forty containers fall off APL England

Face masks are among the medical supplies washing up on Australian shores following the overboard loss of about 40 containers from the APL England.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the APL England experienced a loss of propulsion amid heavy seas shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday about 73 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Sydney. The ship was en route from Ningbo, China, to Melbourne, Australia. 

The APL England was en route from China to Melbourne, Australia, when it lost propulsion. (Photo: AMSA)

“The ship’s power was restored within a few minutes, but during this time the ship reported that it was rolling heavily, causing container stacks to collapse and several containers to fall overboard,” the AMSA said.

The ship turned around and headed for Brisbane after the incident, Australian authorities said.  

The AMSA said investigators boarded the Singapore-flagged container ship at anchor near the Port of Brisbane on Tuesday morning and that an inspection would determine how the ship could be safely brought into port.

“While it is still unclear exactly which containers have fallen overboard, initial indications are that the affected stacks contained a wide range of goods, like household appliances, building materials and medical supplies,” the AMSA said. “No dangerous goods appear to be in cargo in the affected areas and we are working closely with the ship’s cargo agent to confirm exactly which containers went overboard.”

The AMSA said it expected to determine next steps by Wednesday.

Investigators are determining how the vessel can safety be brought into the Port of Brisbane. (Photo: AMSA)

“Once the ship is safely in port, we will begin our investigation, which will focus on the safety of the ship, including whether cargo was appropriately stacked and secured on board the ship, and any potential breaches of environmental pollution regulations,” it said. 

The AMSA said Tuesday it had received a report of medical supplies, including face masks, washing up between Magenta Beach and The Entrance in New South Wales. “These correlate to drift modeling of debris and are consistent with items listed on the ship’s cargo manifest,” it said, adding that the modeling suggests debris could continue to wash on shore over the coming days.

Besides the 40 containers lost overboard, an additional 74 were damaged. The AMSA said several containers were protruding from the ship’s starboard and portside. 

The APL England, which has a capacity of 5,510 twenty-foot equivalent units, was in Singapore on April 25, the Philippines on April 30, Shanghai on May 8 and Ningbo on May 10, according to Vessel Finder. 

The AMSA said this is not the first case of container losses from the APL England off the Australian coast.

“The APL England previously lost 37 containers in the Great Australian Bight in August 2016 due to heavy rolling in rough seas. While the vessel was under totally different management at that time, this is another example of the need for crews and operators to ensure cargo is carried, and ships are operated, to prevent this sort of pollution of the marine environment,” it said. 

The incident on board the England was compared to one on the Yang Ming Efficiency in 2018. (Photo: AMSA)

APL was founded in the United States more than 170 years ago. It was acquired by Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines in 1997 and then sold to CMA CGM in 2016.

The AMSA also compared Sunday’s incident to one on board the Yang Ming Efficiency in June 2018.

“Both ships reported a loss of main engine power during heavy seas, leading to heavy rolling and a collapse of container stacks,” the AMSA said.

In the Yang Ming incident, 83 containers were lost.

The APL England, built in 2001, was used in 2011 to test a seawater scrubber. At that time, APL said the vessel was part of its Pacific Coast Express service that called ports in Korea, China, Japan, California and Alaska.

Neither APL nor CMA CGM has posted information concerning the incident on their websites. An APL spokesperson had not responded to a request for additional details by press time.