Marine safety investigations & reports

Loss of containers overboard involving YM Efficiency, 16 NM east-south-east of Newcastle, New South Wales, on 1 June 2018

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

At about 0035 on 1 June 2018, YM Efficiency was en route to Sydney, steaming slowly into strong gale force winds and very rough seas off Newcastle when it suddenly rolled heavily. As a result, 81 containers were lost overboard and a further 62 were damaged. The ship also sustained structural damage to its lashing bridges, superstructure and accommodation ladder. The ship spent a further 5 days at sea before berthing in Sydney on 6 June.

At the time of publication, searches including remote underwater surveys had identified 66 containers with a few washed ashore or close offshore. Five containers have been removed with 15 containers yet to be found. The accident resulted in substantial debris washing ashore on New South Wales beaches.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB determined that the loss of containers overboard occurred because forces generated during the sudden, heavy rolling placed excessive stresses on containers stowed aft of the ship’s accommodation. This resulted in the structural failure of containers and components of the lashing system, leading to the loss of containers. All potential causes for the sudden rolling were investigated but there was insufficient evidence to establish a definitive reason for the rolling.

The ATSB found that the weights and distribution of containers in the affected bays were such that calculated forces exceeded allowable force limits as defined in the ship’s Cargo Securing Manual (CSM). The investigation also identified that the stowage arrangement was not checked for compliance with the CSM’s calculated lashing force limitations during the cargo planning process ashore. This left sole responsibility for compliance with these requirements with the ship’s officers, with limited options to resolve deficiencies at a late stage in the process without unduly impacting operations. Further, the officers did not use the ship’s loading computer system and its lashing calculation program to check if the stowage arrangement complied as they probably did not have an adequate understanding of the system.

What's been done as a result

The ship’s managers, Yang Ming, now require checks of lashing forces during the initial cargo stowage planning stage ashore. Shore planners will receive regular training in the principles of cargo loading and securing, container stowage, and the dangerous goods functionality of the computer automated stowage planning software. Further, a stowage planning examination has been introduced for trainee stowage planners.

A review of loading computer systems in use across the Yang Ming fleet resulted in the adoption of class-specified, route-specific container stowage standards for part of the fleet. YM Efficiency and the other ships of the same size and type have been equipped with class-approved container stowage planning software systems, with the same software replicated ashore.

In addition, periodic training in the use of the ship’s loading computer system will be delivered to the responsible ship’s officers. Cargo procedures were also reviewed to ensure that the requirement for lashing forces checks to be conducted, both ashore and on board, was captured.

Safety message

The safe carriage of containers at sea depends on loading, stowing and securing them in compliance with the ship’s CSM. Checking stowage plans for compliance with the CSM requirements is increasingly achieved through loading computer systems. Notwithstanding the efficiency of computerised systems, the scale and pace of modern container ship operations puts significant pressure on ships officers to check and amend or approve proposed stowage plans at a late stage.

In that context, the planning process ashore offers the best opportunity to take all practical measures to ensure that the proposed stowage plan presented to ships officers complies with the CSM and is as safe as reasonably practicable.

Weather forecasting, routing and good navigational practices in adverse weather all play a part in minimising the risk of injuries to crew and damage to ship, cargo and environment. However, safe and effective container stowage planning remains the primary control measure in managing the risks involved in carrying containers by sea.

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The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

YM Efficiency

Sources and submissions


Preliminary report

Preliminary report published 24 July 2018

Sequence of events

On 1 June 2018, at about 0035 Eastern Standard Time,[1] the Liberian-flagged container ship YM Efficiency (Figure 1) lost 81 containers overboard in gale-force weather conditions. At the time of the container loss, the ship was about 16 NM east-south-east of Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW). The occurrence also resulted in damage to a further 62 containers and structural damage to the ship’s gangway, superstructure and lashing bridges. The ship was on a regular service, calling at ports in China, Taiwan and Australia.

Figure 1: YM Efficiency entering Port Botany, NSW on 6 June 2018

Figure 1: YM Efficiency entering Port Botany, NSW on 6 June 2018. Source: ATSBSource: ATSB

YM Efficiency

YM Efficiency is a 268.8 m-long, 4,250 TEU[2] container ship, registered in Monrovia, Liberia. The ship was owned by All Oceans Transportation, Liberia and operated by Yang Ming Marine Transport, Taiwan. At the time of the incident, the ship was classed with the American Bureau of Shipping.

Loading in Taiwan

On the afternoon of 13 May 2018, YM Efficiency berthed at the port of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. About an hour after berthing, the loading of containers on board the ship commenced and just before midnight, cargo operations were completed. Shortly after, YM Efficiency departed Kaohsiung for Port Botany, NSW, Australia, with a maximum draft of about 12.6 m aft. On departure, the ship’s passage was executed to achieve an expected time of arrival at the pilot station off Port Botany at midday on 1 June 2018.

Passage to Australia

During the passage south, the ship’s crew received regular weather forecasts and advice to assist voyage planning, as part of a commercial weather routing service. By the afternoon of 29 May, the ship was off the coast of Brisbane, Queensland making good an average speed of about 9 knots. By this time, the ship’s crew had also begun to receive weather data broadcast by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).

By 0930 on 30 May, YM Efficiency was off the coast of NSW, about 32 NM to the north-east of Coffs Harbour. Weather forecast information received on board predicted steadily increasing winds and seas into the next day. Between 0930 and 1130 that morning, in preparation for the expected heavy weather, the chief officer was charged with carrying out checks in accordance with the ship’s heavy weather checklist. This included a check to ensure that container lashings on deck were secure, which was subsequently completed. By 1200, the ship was off Coffs Harbour with the weather recorded in the ship’s logbook as being west-south-westerly winds at force four[3] (between 11 and 16 knots) with 3 m seas and 2 m swells.

At 1605 on 30 May, BoM issued coastal waters forecasts for the Macquarie and Hunter coasts of NSW. Both forecasts included gale warnings for the next day, 31 May, caused by a low-pressure system moving east over the Tasman Sea for the next few days.

By 1900 on 30 May, YM Efficiency was off Port Macquarie and the weather had deteriorated. The weather was recorded as being cloudy with west-south-westerly winds at force eight (between 34 and 40 knots) with 6 m seas and 5 m swells.

By 0800 the next morning, 31 May, the ship was about 32 NM east-north-east of Port Stephens. The weather was recorded as being cloudy with west-south-westerly winds at force eight (between 34 and 40 knots) with 7 m seas and 5 m swells. The ship’s main engine speed was set at 35 revolutions per minute (rpm), the equivalent of ‘slow ahead’. At about 0830, a second heavy weather checklist was completed, with the container lashings checked once again.

The incident

At about 1300 on 31 May, the ship received information that the pilot boarding time for the ship’s call at Port Botany had been delayed by 8 hours to 2000 on 1 June. At about 1400, the ship’s main engine was stopped and the ship commenced drifting off the NSW coast, about 30 NM east of Newcastle (Figure 2). The weather at the time was recorded as being overcast with west-south-westerly winds at force eight (between 34 and 40 knots) with 6 m seas and 5 m swells.

Figure 2: Section of navigational chart Aus 489 showing YM Efficiency's track

Figure 2: Section of navigational chart Aus 489 showing YM Efficiency's track. Source: Australian Hydrographic Service, modified by the ATSB

Source: Australian Hydrographic Service, annotated by the ATSB

The ship’s main engine was re-started for brief periods over the next few hours to maintain some control over the ship’s drift. The rough weather continued into the evening with the wind recorded as having increased to force nine (between 41 and 47 knots) at 2200.

At about 2330, the ship’s main engine was started with the engine speed set to 35 rpm and the ship’s head was slowly brought around to the south-west to resume the passage to Port Botany. At midnight, the third officer handed over the navigation watch to the second officer. By this time, the ship was on a heading of about 210° with a speed of about 4.3 knots. The weather at midnight was recorded as being overcast with west-south-westerly winds at force nine (between 41 and 47 knots) with 6 m seas and 5 m swells.

At about 0034 on 1 June, in a position about 16 NM east-south-east of Newcastle, the ship experienced a period of quick, heavy rolling for about 60 to 90 seconds. The rolling was estimated by the ship’s master as having reached angles of up to 30º to port and starboard. Shortly after the start of the rolling, several engineering alarms sounded and the main engine shut down with the rpm reducing to zero. The second officer reported hearing loud noises on deck and suspected that there had been some cargo damage. He turned on the ship’s deck lights and observed that containers had been damaged and possibly lost overboard from the bays aft of the accommodation.

By about 0036, the rolling had reduced and the ship’s motion had calmed. By this time, the master had arrived on the bridge and the chief engineer and second engineer had proceeded down to the engine room to assist the duty engineer with the main engine shutdown.

The master took over the navigation of the vessel and instructed the chief officer to conduct a damage assessment. At about 0040, the chief officer reported several containers damaged or lost overboard from bays 52 and 56, just aft of the accommodation (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Damaged containers on bay 52 and bay 56 on board YM Efficiency

Figure 3: Damaged containers on bay 52 and bay 56 on board YM Efficiency. Source: ATSBSource: ATSB

At about 0045, the main engine was successfully re-started and the engine telegraph[4] on the bridge was placed at ‘dead slow ahead’ and then, almost immediately, placed at ‘stop’ again. The ship continued to drift in the gale force winds and seas until about 0252, when the main engine was started and the ship resumed passage for Port Botany.

In the morning, the ship’s crew conducted more detailed damage assessments and attempted to stabilise the damaged and collapsed containers on deck. The container loss and damage was found to be limited to bays 52 and 56. The container loss was reported to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) who coordinated notifications to other involved stakeholders. AMSA also commenced modelling the drift of the lost containers and initiated safety broadcasts to warn shipping in the area of the hazard posed by the lost containers.

Over the next few days, AMSA, along with Roads and Maritime Services, NSW, continued to work with the ship’s owners and insurers to detect, identify and track containers and their contents on the NSW coast. Although there were a considerable number of damaged containers still on board the ship, no further containers were lost overboard after the container loss event on 1 June. The ship sustained damage to the gangway, superstructure and lashing bridges.

YM Efficiency eventually berthed in Port Botany at about 0936 on 6 June. Over the course of the following days, personnel representing several different stakeholders attended the ship including investigators from the ATSB, AMSA surveyors and the ship’s flag state - Liberia.

On 11 June, the first damaged container was discharged from the ship and by 21 June, all remaining damaged containers had been discharged. YM Efficiency departed Port Botany for Melbourne at about 2130 on 22 June.

Ongoing investigation

The investigation is continuing. The ATSB will follow any location and salvage efforts to identify any further evidence should it become available.

The investigation will include the following:

  • analysis of the ship’s container stow and lashing arrangement
  • analysis of the ship’s stability condition
  • actions of the ship’s officers and crew following the incident
  • analysis of weather conditions at the time of the incident.


The information contained in this preliminary report is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this report. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.



  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.
  2. Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, a standard shipping container. The nominal size of ships in TEU refers to the number of standard containers that it can carry.
  3. The Beaufort scale of wind force, developed in 1805 by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, enables sailors to estimate wind speeds through visual observations of sea states.
  4. An engine telegraph on a ship’s bridge is a device used to transfer orders for changes in engine speed or direction from the bridge to the engine room.

Safety Issue

Go to MO-2018-008-SI-01 -

Shore planning

The ship’s manager’s (Yang Ming) cargo-planning process ashore did not ensure that the proposed container stowage plan complied with the stowage and lashing forces requirements of the ship's Cargo Securing Manual. Consequently, compliance with these requirements relied entirely on shipboard checks, made at a late stage, with limited options available for amendments without unduly impacting commercial operations.

Safety issue details
Issue number: MO-2018-008-SI-01
Who it affects: Ships operated by Yang Ming
Status: Adequately addressed
General details
Date: 01 June 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0035 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 16 NM east-south-east of Newcastle   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: New South Wales    
Release date: 13 February 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Operator Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation  
Vessel YM Efficiency  
Flag Liberia  
IMO 9353280  
Sector Container  
Type of operation Cargo  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Kaohsiung, Taiwan  
Destination Port Botany, Sydney, New South Wales  
Last update 20 July 2020