Australia bans container ship for serious maintenance defects

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Marshall Island-flagged container ship Big Lilly from Australian waters for 90 days, for serious safety and maintenance issues.

Prior to this banning, the ship was detained in Melbourne, after an AMSA port State control (PSC) inspection identified serious defects with the watertight integrity of the ship’s cargo hatches, main engine and safety equipment.

AMSA Inspectors identified a long list of defects and while the seafarers onboard had taken steps to maintain the ship, they appeared to have insufficient support from the ship’s management to ensure it met minimum international standards.

These defects have resulted in an elevated risk to the health and safety of the seafarers on board, and the Australian coastal environment.  

This is the second time the Big Lilly has been detained this year, following the identification of 23 serious deficiencies in May, seven of which warranted detention.

These deficiencies were not all adequately rectified, despite an agreed rectification action plan from the operator.

The ships operator, V Ships Greece, has a poor record recently, with a detention rate of 16% compared to 6% for all foreign vessels. 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.

AMSA Executive Director of Operations Michael Drake said this was a serious example of poor maintenance.

“V Ships Greece did not take the opportunity other operators in the same situation had, to bring the vessel up to the standards required,” he said.

“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.

“The ban was necessary to send a strong message that AMSA has a zero-tolerance approach to operators which allow their ships to deteriorate to such an extent.

“Ship owners and operators are on notice that Australia expects vessels to at least meet the minimum international standards.”

Drake said this is the third banning for maintenance issues this year.

“Last year AMSA issued a Marine Notice to give clear guidance to vessel operators regarding planned maintenance on ships, so there is no excuse for not maintaining your vessel,” he said.

“Shipping is the backbone of Australia’s economy with over 29,000 ships entering Australian ports every year, so it is vitally important we have confidence in the integrity of these vessels.”

Photo credit: AMSA. Big Lilly

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