Lashing plates on APL England severely corroded, court told

Container ship APL England, which now sails as the Torrance (IMO 9218650), had severely corroded lashing plates making it unseaworthy, a Brisbane, Queensland, Australia court has heard.

The vessel lost 50 containers overboard off Australia’s east coast between May 23rd and May 28th 2020. The containers fell off when the vessel encountered rough seas while sailing to Melbourne, Australia, from China.

Its Malaysian master Mohd Zulkhaili Bin Alias faces two charges. One offence relates to the disposal of garbage from a ship into the sea, while the other is now a charge of taking a vessel to sea while it was unseaworthy, between May 11th and May 28th.

Alias was granted permission in June last year to leave Australia and to return home. The prosecution asserts that the ship was “not safely loaded” in China, commonwealth prosecutor Nicholas Robinson QC told Brisbane Magistrates Court on July 5th. He said that lashing plates were severely corroded and much weaker than they ought to have been. He further claimed that turn buckles had not been tightened properly and that the nuts on them were not securely fixed.

When the ship hit rough weather about 70 or so containers shifted and 50 went overboard, he said.

The unseaworthiness offence related to the load not being securely and properly tied down to meet the “ordinary perils of a voyage”. The prosecution asserts that the bad weather was not unanticipated.

The legal team defending the master of a cargo ship has lost its application to cross-examine three experts.

Defence barrister Sophie Harburg has applied to cross-examine three expert witnesses during Alias’s committal hearing. The application was opposed by the prosecution. The court heard the witnesses were two port surveyors and a coxswain.

The vessel was ordered to the Port of Brisbane for inspection by Australian Maritime Safety Authority officers after losing the containers about 75km off Sydney. The coxswain cut four lashing plates from the deck for forensic examination, saying they represented the standard of plates he could see without going into the bays where containers were lost because they were still in a “precarious” position and in need of work, Robinson said.

Harburg said the defence wanted to question the coxswain about the lashing plate sample selection and the port surveyors’ area of specialized expertise.

Magistrate Paul Byrne agreed that shipping lines knew how bad the weather could get and said that an extreme adverse weather event would be the minimum standard a loading should prepare for. He refused the application.

The committal will be heard at a later date.

The APL England (as it then was) was detained in Brisbane after Australian inspectors said that they had found inadequate lashing arrangements for cargo, plus heavily corroded securing points for containers on deck (IMN June 1st 2020). At the time the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said that “while not to pre-empt the outcomes of the investigation, it is clear that the risk of container loss could have been reduced”.

As of July 5th the vessel was in the Western Mediterranean en route from Le Havre, France, to Haifa, Israel.

At the time the 2001-built, Singapore-flagged, 65,792 gt APL England was owned by CMB Ocean 13 Leasing Co Pte care of manager APL Co Pte Ltd of Singapore. ISM manager was CMA CGM International Shipping of Singapore. It was entered with Steamship Mutual (European Syndicate) on behalf of CMB Ocean 13 Leasing Co Pte Ltd.

Currently the vessel, renamed the Torrance, is Liberia-flagged, owned by Klaipeda Maritime LLC care of ConChart Commercial Inc of Athens, Greece. ISM manager is Technomar Shipping Inc-Lib of Athens, Greece. It is entered with UK Club on behalf of Klaipeda Maritime LLC.