Ship master to face trial over cargo spill

Cheryl Goodenough |

The master of a ship that lost dozens of containers overboard off Australia’s east coast has been committed to stand trial.

Ship master Mohd Zulkhaili Bin Alias was facing two charges after 50 containers toppled off the APL England when the vessel encountered rough seas while travelling to Melbourne from China in May 2020.

Containers and other debris washed up on NSW beaches, triggering a massive clean-up operation.

Brisbane magistrate Mark Nolan on Monday found there was insufficient evidence to commit the 44-year-old captain to stand trial on one charge relating to the disposal of garbage from a ship into the sea.

He made the ruling after submissions on the definition of garbage according to relevant law.

“I find that the plastics alleged to have entered the sea from containers falling from the vessel are not garbage as defined in regulations,” Mr Nolan said.

Alias will face trial on one charge of taking a vessel to sea while unseaworthy.

That count earlier replaced one of failing to ensure a vessel does not cause pollution.

Alias – a Malaysian citizen – appeared by video-link after being given bail and allowed to return home from Australia the month after the incident.

Commonwealth prosecutor Nicholas Robinson QC said during earlier proceedings the Crown’s evidence was that the ship was “not safely loaded” in China.

He said the unseaworthiness offence related to the load not being securely and properly tied down to meet the “ordinary perils of a voyage”.

The APL England was ordered to the Port of Brisbane for inspection by Australian Maritime Safety Authority officers after losing the containers about 75km off Sydney.

Alias will face trial in the district court on a date yet to be decided.