Australia’s maritime regulator has given a rare public rebuke to a top ship manager over its port-state-control detention record.

V.Ships Greece was described as having a “poor record recently” by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) after one of its vessels received a lengthy ban from Australian ports.

AMSA said the ship manager had a port-state-control detention rate of 16% compared with 6% for all foreign vessels, but it is unclear over what time frame this applied.

The 1,708-teu feeder containership Big Lilly (built 1999) has been banned from Australian waters for 90 days over “serious safety and maintenance issues”.

Prior to this ban, the ship was detained in Melbourne, after a port-state-control inspection identified serious defects with the watertight integrity of its cargo hatches, main engine and safety equipment.

Inspectors are said to have identified a “long list of defects”, and although the seafarers on board 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,” AMSA said.

V.Ships is part of ship management and marine services group V.Group, headed by chief executive Rene Kofod-Olsen.

The Big Lilly has been banned from Australian waters for 90 days over serious safety and maintenance issues. Photo: AMSA

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

AMSA said these deficiencies were “not all adequately rectified, despite an agreed rectification action plan from the operator”.

It said V.Ships Greece was “identified as a poor performing operator” after the first detention of the Big Lilly.

“The identification as a poor performer puts the company on notice to take positive steps to bring their ships into compliance,” AMSA said.

Michael Drake, executive director of operations at AMSA, 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.”

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

He said this is the third ban 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.”