Yang Ming Ship Arrested in Australia for Pollution Debt
The sister ship of the YM Efficiency, which lost 81 shipping containers off the coast of Newcastle and Port Stephens in June 2018, has been arrested in Sydney for a pollution debt that could reach as high as AU$20 million ($13.4 million).
The Federal Court Admiralty Marshall arrested the YM Eternity at Port Botany on Sunday morning after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) petitioned the court to recover the outstanding debt.
Both the YM Eternity and YM Efficiency are owned by a subsidiary of Taiwanese shipping company, Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp.
Yang Ming has refused to pay for the clean-up of the remaining pollution including the containers and their contents which have been located on the seafloor off the coast of Newcastle. 60 containers have been identified, five containers have been recovered while a further 16 are still missing.
In December 2019, AMSA signed a contract with Ardent Oceania to begin the clean-up operation for the 60 containers. The contract is valued at about AU$15 million. Work begins in March 2020 and is expected to be completed within a month.
AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said the arrest of YM Eternity shows that AMSA will not allow international shipping companies to pollute our waters without consequence. “Our ocean won’t pay the price of Yang Ming’s pollution – Yang Ming will.”
The anticipated cost to locate and clean-up the remaining missing 16 containers is up to a further $5 million, bringing Yang Ming’s debt to $20 million.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation into the YM Efficiency incident is on-going. A preliminary report notes that at a position about 16 nautical miles east-south-east of Newcastle, in gale-force weather conditions, the ship experienced a period of quick, heavy rolling for about 60 to 90 seconds. The rolling was estimated by the ship’s master as having reached angles of up to 30º to port and starboard. Shortly after the start of the rolling, several engineering alarms sounded and the main engine shut down with the rpm reducing to zero. The second officer reported hearing loud noises on deck and it was later discovered that 81 containers had gone overboard.
The YM Eternity was detained by AMSA on July 12, 2019 in Sydney for the same systemic failure to safely stow and secure cargo that led to the YM Efficiency container spill.