A screenshot of the APL England Container ship losing shipping containers overboard off the New South Wales mid north coast during wild seas. Source: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)
A screenshot of the APL England Container ship losing shipping containers overboard off the New South Wales mid north coast during wild seas. Source: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Ship off North Coast assessed after containers lost

A SHIP currently off the coast of Byron Bay has lost about 40 containers overboard.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is responding to an incident in which containers have been lost overboard from the APL England off the NSW coast.

The ship, which is Singapore-flagged, experienced a temporary loss of propulsion during heavy seas about 73km south east of Sydney about 6.10am on Sunday.

The ship was on a journey from Ningbo, China to Melbourne.

Within a few minutes, power was restored to the ship.

But it had been rolling heavily and container stacks collapsed, with about 40 falling overboard into waters about 2km deep.

The ship's Master has reported a further 74 containers are damaged and remain collapsed on the deck.

Another six have been reported to be protruding from the starboard side, and three are protruding from the port side of the ship.

The APL England has turned around and is travelling toward Brisbane.

The AMSA said in a statement yesterday their Challenger jet had been tasked to look for containers and debris in the water and to inspect the ship for signs of damage or pollution.

Some containers were spotted in the water but bad weather and poor visibility hampered their efforts.

At the time, the Challenger returned to the ship when it was located 20km off Byron Bay.

There, the AMSA was conducting another search for containers and debris.

Drift modelling was yesterday being undertaken and AMSA is working with NSW Maritime to consider potential shoreline impacts.

The authority is also consulting with Maritime Safety Queensland about the ship's potential use of Brisbane Port.

No damage to the ship's hull has been reported.

Initial modelling has indicated any floating containers or debris were likely to wash up north of Sydney.

No sightings of containers or debris on the shoreline have so far been reported.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has been notified and has confirmed it will investigate the incident.

The APL England was involved in a previous incident where it lost 37 containers in the Great Australian Bight in August 2016 due to heavy rolling in rough seas.

In its statement, the AMSA said while the vessel was under "totally different management" this time, it was "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".