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Australia Bans Dutch Cargo Ship in Safety Crackdown

Australian safety crackdown
Australia issued its second 90-day ban of 2023 in an ongoing safety crackdown on the maritime industry (Flevogracht file photo)

Published Mar 20, 2023 11:58 AM by The Maritime Executive

Australia is continuing to move forward with a “crackdown on poor performers in the maritime industry,” announced the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) issuing a ban to a Dutch-flagged general cargo ship, the second such action of 2023. This is part of an effort in which the safety authority has taken action against established European ship management companies versus previous bans often on smaller, flag of convenience carriers.

The 90-day ban announced today is for the Flevogracht, a 2011-built vessel registered in the Netherlands and operated by the Spliethoff Group. The 12,500 dwt vessel has been in Australia since mid-February arriving from Tonga first at Kwinana, Australia where she docked on February 17 according to AIS data, and then at Newcastle. AMSA reports it detained the Flevogracht after the ship’s rescue boat engine was found to be defective.

AMSA reports it has detained five Spliethoff ships in the past two years.  Three of the detentions related to “serious failures to effectively implement Safety of Navigation processes,” they reported. As a result, AMSA issued Spliethoff with two warning letters, outlining concerns over the seaworthiness of their ships. The action that went into effect in November 2022 means that all the company’s ships are eligible for inspection every three months as part of ongoing compliance activities. AMSA will review the performance of Spliethoff's Bervrachtingskantoor after 12 months.

This latest incident, AMSA said in announcing its decision to impose the ban is part of a pattern of unacceptable performance from the operator, that poses a risk to the integrity of the ship, the safety of the crew, and the marine environment. At around the same time, the Flevogracht was arriving in Australian waters, the master of another of Spliethoff’s cargo ships, the Florijngracht (12,500 dwt), was fined A$6,000 (US$4,000) on February 16 for breaching compulsory pilotage laws after the ship illegally entered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park without a marine pilot. 

“The fact that Spliethoff ships continue to be detained is evidence of their ongoing and repeated lack of concern for safety and environmental protection,” said Michael Drake, AMSA’s Executive Director of Operations. “Ship operators should be on notice that AMSA will not hesitate to take action when we find unacceptable practices on board ships.”

AMSA has issued a total of 16 warning letters since September 2022 to a range of shipping companies sailing to its ports. In January 2023, they cited COSCO Wallem Ship Management Company, Asia Maritime Pacific (Shanghai), Chugoku Sougyo Company, Marmaras Navigation, and TW Ship Management, informing each of the companies that its ships would be subject to increased inspection as part of ongoing compliance activities.

At the end of February, AMSA also announced a similar enforcement action against MSC Shipmanagement, a division of the Geneva-based MSC Group. AMSA reports detaining nine MSC-managed ships over the past two years, including five ships in 2023. One of the company's managed ships was also given a 90-day ban.

The ongoing effort in Australia comes as the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) bolstered by support from France announced they would be launching a barrage of inspections over the next eight weeks in the Mediterranean focusing on safety and crew welfare issues. The union’s inspections will be targeting ships operating under four international registries, which they contend are the worst offenders with a long track record of detentions and deficiencies identified during Port State inspections.