It's common place in the shipping world to get cargo and ships moving as quickly as possible and I understand that (especially in the maritime industry) time is money.
In these peculiar days there is more pressure for ships to load and depart as quickly as possible but seeing yet another load of containers being lost overboard in Australian waters makes my blood boil.
Fierce weather makes any lashing and stowing, or indeed any marine survey task more complicated than normal but when it appears that poor maintenance such as heavily corroded securing points, failures in stowage planning and appropriate stack loadings were not picked up by a surveyor, (whether a professional private surveyor or a class surveyor) makes me wonder what is actually going on out there. How could such poor maintenance not be picked up somewhere?
Now, I am not a marine surveyor and I do feel somewhat out of my depth here, but I am a business person with pretty solid qualifications and I can and do understand the importance of getting things moving quickly, but, as a professional you know that there is always a risk to be analysed when you decide to cut corners.
It appears that with the APL England the vessels lashing equipment and lashing points on board were sub-standard and most likely the securing plan was not adhered to, and no doubt the vessel will now undergo a strict audit with a view to rectifying the underlying structural/procedural problems - in addition to removing the remaining toppled containers.
One of our surveyors at the AIMS told me that he has been on some container vessels that were in very poor condition on deck - with corroded structures and equipment and said that maintenance is difficult if not impossible and with freight rates being sub-zero only the bare minimum gets done but having said that, I have been on some pretty schmick ships as well where it is clear that the owners are aware of and protect the value of their asset. Ships are expensive monsters to run he said, but in comparison to the costs of clean up and damages, well that’s another story.
The cost of engaging a professional marine surveyor would be a mere pittance against the costs incurred in this instance and the YM Efficiency debacle.
Twice in two years makes me wonder why a ship is allowed to depart our waters without a sign off from an independent surveyor, but then again, there is a lot about shipping in Australia that needs reform – at the very least, securing of deck containers needs to be signed off by a suitably qualified “independent third party” AND the Master prior to a container vessel sailing from a Port.
Maybe the ship owners and agents think the cost of doing it cheap is worth the risk – who knows?
The fact remains that someone will make a nice few dollars out of this and someone is going to lose a lot. Taxpayers too will no doubt be in for some of the clean-up cost.
Time to get a bit more vocal on issues such as this!
Susan Hull, CEO
Photo credit: William Burton, AIMS
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