Australia Bans Chinese LNG Carrier After Breakdown Blocked LNG Terminal

banned LNG carrier
CESI Qingdao was banned by Australia after a mechanical breakdown and for "contravention of AMSA Detention Notice" (AMSA)

Published Jan 3, 2024 12:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Australian Maritime Safety Agency imposed a stiff penalty on an LNG carrier after an incident that saw the vessel blocking one of the country’s largest LNG export terminals and disrupting the operations of ConocoPhillips Australia, Origin Energy, and the Australia Pacific's terminal. It was the ninth ban imposed on a vessel by the safety agency in 2023 as part of their strict enforcement of regulations to ensure the integrity of operations and the safety of crews.

The ban which runs for 180 days till late June 2024, was issued following an incident that began on November 21 when the Chinese-owned LNG tanker CESI Qingdao (95,600 dwt), a regular caller at the terminal as part of a dedicated export operation, experienced a power failure. By the end of November with the vessel stuck at the terminal for nearly a week, upstream producer Origin reported it had been forced to tune down production as several shipments were missed due to the stranded vessel blocking the terminal. 

AMSA during the incident reportedly called the vessel “unseaworthy” while discussing the situation with the Australian media. The safety agency reports it worked with the master and operator while extensive repairs to the ship were carried out. Four generators required repairs, but according to AMSA only one of which was repaired after being completely rebuilt under the supervision of the engine manufacturers. 

Australian regulators finally agreed that the laden vessel could be towed off the terminal and placed in an anchorage while repairs were being completed. Three shipments had been delayed while the terminal was blocked. The LNG carrier which operates under charter to Chinese energy company Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Company) remained for three more weeks in the anchorage before finally being towed back to China for repairs, where it is due to arrive on January 12.

“The response of the master and ship managers throughout the repair process necessitated stronger compliance action from AMSA,” they said announcing the six-month ban. The order cites a “contravention of AMSA Detention Notice,” as being the reason for the long ban.

Most of the bans issued are due to poor maintenance issues that AMSA’s inspectors find during port state inspections or when reported by crewmembers. They have also acted when ship managers are found to be violating labor contracts or have a history of poor crew welfare and failing to pay crew wages. However, in one case in 2023 they banned a ship saying inspectors found “incorrect stowage of explosive substances.”

In addition to the bans on individual ships, several ship managers have had their fleets placed on notice for frequent inspections due to a history of poor performance according to AMSA. The safety agency has emphasized that it has a low tolerance for these issues in its efforts to protect crews and the Australian environment.