Master Fined for Delay in Reporting Main Engine Failure

file photo
file photo

Published Jan 15, 2020 7:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The master of a ship has been fined for failing to report without delay a main engine breakdown off Queensland, Australia, that affected the safety, operation and seaworthiness of his ship.

The incident occurred on January 31, 2019 when the tanker Asphalt Spirit was en route from Korea to Australia carrying 14,000 tonnes of asphalt. The ship suffered a main engine breakdown at 4pm local time and began drifting 30 kilometers northeast of Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island.

The ship’s master reported the incident via email to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) just after 10pm that night – six hours after the initial breakdown.

Modelling predicted the possibility of the ship running aground at the southern end of the island within the next 17 hours if it continued to drift without power.

AMSA began making arrangements to intervene with an emergency tug from Brisbane. The ship’s master confirmed the engine damage could not be repaired at sea. Following discussions with technical experts, the Asphalt Spirit’s insurer UK P&I Club entered into its own commercial arrangement with Svitzer who tasked its tug Clontarf to intervene. Clontarf arrived later that day, securing the Asphalt Spirit and towing her to Brisbane.

The master was fined A$3,000, and a conviction was recorded.

AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said the responsibility to report a marine incident to authorities without delay and the consequences for failing to do so, ultimately rests on the shoulders of the ship’s master. “Without intervention, the incident with the Asphalt Spirit could have been an environmental disaster. It goes without saying that the reluctance from the master and company management to report the incident to AMSA with the urgency that it warranted, is completely unacceptable.

“The Australian coastline is huge and assets such as tugs may take time to arrange. We understand that ships can break down from time to time, and we will always support responsible operators who report these incidents and who are taking the necessary steps to undertake repairs or arrange a tow.

“Ship tracking technology today means we will know exactly when a ship stopped one way or another, and we will ask questions if it is not reported.”