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Master convicted for delayed report of engine failure

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The master of tanker Asphalt Spirit was fined 3,000 Australian dollars after failing to immediately report a main engine breakdown that left the vessel adrift off Queensland last year. 

According to a report by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the tanker was en route from Korea to Australia when the main engine broke down at 4 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2019. The incident was not reported to AMSA until after 10 p.m. that night – six hours after the breakdown. 

Modeling predicted the possibility of the ship running aground at the southern end of North Stradbroke Island within 17 hours if it continued to drift without power. AMSA also reported that the ship’s master did not respond until 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 1 to confirm that the engine damage could not be repaired at sea. AMSA began making arrangements to respond with an emergency tug from Brisbane, but the ship’s insurer instead made arrangements for a tug, which towed the tanker to Brisbane later that day.

“Without intervention, the incident with the Asphalt Spirit could have been an environmental disaster,” stated AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley. “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.”

On Dec. 9, 2019, the ship’s master pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to one count of failing to report a marine incident to authorities without delay, as required by section 11(1) of the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983. Kinley said the conviction sent a message to the maritime industry.

“Failure to report a marine incident without delay places the safety of your ship and crew, as well as our precious marine environment, at further risk and it could result in a conviction that will follow you for the rest of your career,” Kinley stated.

For information on incident reporting requirements that apply to vessels in Australian waters, visit www.amsa.gov.au/vessels-operators/incident-reporting.

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