Ship master convicted for failing to report engine failure

Ship master convicted for failing to report engine failure


The master of a tanker has been convicted after failing to report without delay a main engine breakdown off Queensland, Australia that affected the safety, operation and seaworthiness of his ship, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said. 

The master has been fined AUD 3,000 (about USD 2,061).

The incident that led to this conviction dates back to January 31, 2019, when the 14,500 dwt Asphalt Spirit was en route from Korea to Australia carrying 14,000 tons of asphalt.

The Marshall Islands-flagged ship suffered a main engine breakdown at 4 pm local time and began drifting 30km northeast of Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island.

The ship’s master reported the incident to AMSA just after 10 pm that night – six hours after the initial breakdown. Modeling 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 responded to AMSA at 1.30 am on February 1 and 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 to intervene. The tug arrived later that day, securing the Asphalt Spirit and towing it to Brisbane.

On December 9, 2019, the master pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to one count of failing to report a marine incident to authorities without delay.

AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said the conviction sent a clear message to the maritime industry that failure to comply with critical reporting requirements had serious consequences.

“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,” Kinley said.

“We have reporting requirements in the maritime industry for a reason. Authorities need to know if you are in trouble so they can provide assistance where possible to resolve the problem before it leads to a catastrophe.”

“Without intervention, the incident with the Asphalt Spirit could have been an environmental disaster,” he stated.