Australia Bans Containership for Serious Maintenance Issues
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority issued its seventh ban against a ship in 2023 as they continue strict enforcement of safety and crew welfare protocols with an increased focus on maintenance issues. They noted that it is the third ban issued this year specifically for maintenance issues and it comes despite a warning to ship operators a year ago and with the management in this instance failing to heed a prior warning.
The vessel is the Big Lilly, a Marshall Islands registered small containership. Built 24 years ago in 1999, the vessel has changed ownership many times, the last being in May 2022. She is 23,000 dwt with a capacity of 1,730 TEU.
“There is no excuse for not maintaining your vessel,” said Michael Drake, Executive Director of AMSA. “It is difficult for the crews of vessels like the Big Lilly to improve the condition of the vessel when operating on such a tight schedule. Operators of vessels must understand that maintaining their vessels is their responsibility and failing to do so can result in serious consequences, which may endanger lives and impact the Australian coastline.”
In this case, the vessel arrived in Melbourne where it was detained after an inspection by AMSA. The Port State Control (PSC) inspection identified serious defects with the watertight integrity of the ship’s cargo hatches including holes and metal wastage, as well as issues with the main engine, and safety equipment. AMSA documented an oil leak in the engine room as well as unapproved modifications.
This is the second time the Big Lilly has been detained this year AMSA highlights, noting in May the identification of 23 serious deficiencies, seven of which warranted detention. These included issues of fire safety maintenance, issues with the propulsion main engine, and the sewage system.
AMSA notes that the June detention ended with an agreed rectification action plan from the operator. However, they found this time that despite the crew’s efforts at maintenance “they appeared to have insufficient support from the ship’s management to ensure it met minimum international standards.” As a result, the vessel is now banned from Australian ports and waters for 90 days. It is currently sailing for Shanghai. The vessel has a long list of identified problems on prior port inspections between 2013 and 2018 under previous owners.
“V Ships Greece did not take the opportunity other operators in the same situation had, to bring the vessel up to the standards required," said Drake. In July 2023, AMSA put V Ships Greece on a watch list meaning its vessels could be inspected every three months. They are one of 16 ship operators that AMSA currently has warned that they will receive increased inspections due to a prior record of issues with their vessels.
“The ship's operator, V Ships Greece, has a poor record recently, with a detention rate of 16 percent compared to six percent for all foreign vessels,” reports AMSA. “They were identified as a poor performing operator after the first detention of the Big Lilly in June 2023. The identification as a poor performer puts the company on notice to take positive steps to bring their ships into compliance.”
In October 2022, AMSA issued a notice warning that during Port State Control inspections, it would place a greater focus on planned maintenance of propulsion and auxiliary equipment and associated systems and would take necessary compliance actions to address any identified areas of concern. They said that recent incidents had demonstrated the potentially serious consequences of a lack of effective maintenance of main engines and power generation systems.