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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"

"Going Strait"

Feature Date: June 2 2010

Event Date: May 17 2010

MV Zhong Xing

Countryman & McDaniel

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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"

On The Scene -- In The Torres Strait

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Other Great Disasters of our Time

The Cargo Letter Photo Gallery of Transport Loss - Items Below Are Only A Sample

"Coaling On The Great Barrier Reef" - April 3 2010

"Poor Margaet, She's Just Blasted" - March 8 2010

"The Prisoners of Bothnia" - March 6 2010

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"Miracle At Kingston" - Dec. 31 2009

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"Miracle At Schiphol" - Flight TK 1951 - March. 2009

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"Miracle On The Hudson" - Flight 1549 - Jan. 2009

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"The Taking of M/T Sirius Star" - Somalia Pirates Take Supertanker - Stakes Raised - Nov.- Jan. 2008

"Fedra Backs In" - Death of M/V Fedra" - Oct. 2008

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These Are Only Examples

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"Backhaul !" - for July 2005

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M/T Vicuna Explodes - for Jan. 2005

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The Complete Cargo Letter Photo Gallery of Transport Loss




"Going Strait"

On The Scene In The Torres Strait

MV Zhong Xing

May 17 2010

A Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender

The Date: May 17 2010

The Time: About 6 PM

The Place: In The Torres Strait, Australia

Between The North of Australia & The South of Papua New Guinea Lies The Torres Strait

The Torres Strait Links The Coral Sea To The East With The Arafura Sea In The West.



This feature is not so much about a vessel grounding, but to share an interesting & little know maritime area.

The Torres Strait separates Australia on the South from Papua New Guinea on the North -- an isolated island culture just North of The Great Barrier Reef -- but of equal beauty & significance.

The Torres Strait proudly flies it's own, regional Australian flag and embraces an ancient island culture dating to 2,500 years ago.

This month the island paradise was to be threatened with yet another ecological disaster from an oil leak aboard MV Zhong Xing.

Although permits to visit the Torres Strait are available, it is almost a shame to publish this feature. This area is too pristine to advertise for mass public visitation.

This is one of Earth's true last, remaining frontiers. Will MV Zhong Xing spoil the area?

The world goes crazy when comes some threat to The Great Barrier Reef, and rightly so. But here is perhaps a more pristine area -- you never heard of before.

Who knew?

Michael S. McDaniel

MV Zhong Xing Grounded In The Torres Strait

The Strait Links The Coral Sea To The East With The Arafura Sea In The West.


Our Contributor To This Feature Sets The Stage:

"Most of the northern waters between Aust and PNG is not well charted, Zone of Confidence is C or D at best, in some places not charted for many decades."
Gervase Pearce -- BCS Consulting, Neutral Bay, NSW Australia


Australian Maritime Safety Authority MV Zhong Xing - May 19 2010

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is currently dealing with a ship anchored approximately 9 nautical miles North of Yorke Island in the Torres Strait following a grounding incident. There is no pollution and there is no immediate risk to the ship or crew of 22.

MV Zhong Xing is a Panamanian registered 113 metre general cargo ship. On Monday evening (17 May) after leaving Daru in Papua New Guinea with a load of timber bound for China, the vessel grounded near an unnamed reef in Papua New Guinea (PNG) waters.  At the time, the vessel was enroute to pick up a pilot to transit the Torres Strait on its planned passage to China.

AMSA was concerned that the vessel planned to transit Australian waters after it had grounded and the possibility of pollution from the ship.  After it entered Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), AMSA placed an intervention order on the ship and ordered it to anchor in its current location.

There has been no pollution associated with this incident. The ship has sustained some damage to its forward cargo hold and there is some water ingress which is being successfully pumped out of the vessel.

The Australian Customs Vessel Roebuck Bay is standing by the vessel and has provided assistance with regard to the pumping of water from the forward cargo hold.

After AMSA issued a second intervention order instructing them to do so, the ship's owners have engaged a salvage company to assess the damage to the vessel and to arrange for it to be made seaworthy so it can leave Australian waters. It is anticipated that the salvors will be on the vessel the afternoon of Thursday 20th May.

AMSA has sent a specialist to the vessel to ascertain its condition, has been engaged with the ship's Flag State and PNG authorities, and will continue to monitor the situation until such time as the vessel has left Australian waters. 

Navigation Chart of Torres Strait Shows Lighthouses & Explains Why Embarked Pilots Are Required To Cross This Shallow Sea.

This Little Part of The World Is A Mariners Final Navigational Exam. Note The Depth Markings.

The Little World of The Torres Strait -

Torres Strait is an important international sea lane, it is very shallow, and the maze of reefs and islands can make it hazardous to navigate.

The first recorded European navigation of the strait was by Luis Váez de Torres, a Spanish or Portuguese pilot who was second-in-command on the Spanish expedition led by the Portuguese Pedro Fernandez de Quirós who sailed from Peru to the South Pacific in 1605. After Quiros's ship returned to Mexico, Torres resumed the intended voyage to Manila via the Moluccas. He sailed along the south coast of New Guinea, and may also have sighted the northernmost extremity of the Australian mainland, however no specific records exist that indicate he did so.

In 1769 the Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple, whilst translating some Spanish documents captured in the Philippines in 1762, had found Luis Váez de Torres' testimony proving a passage south of New Guinea now known as Torres Strait. This discovery led Dalrymple to publish the Historical Collection of the Several Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean in 1770-1771, which aroused widespread interest in his claim of the existence of an unknown continent. It was Dalrymple who named the strait after Torres. This led Captain Cook to undertake another voyage into the South Pacific. Dalrymple was bitterly disappointed that it was Captain Cook and not him who was appointed commander of the expedition which eventually led in 1770 to the British encounter and charting of the eastern coastline of Australia.

In 1770 Capt. Cook claimed the whole of eastern Australia for the British Crown, and sailed through the strait after proceeding up the eastern coast of the continent. The London Missionary Society arrived on Erub (Darnley Island) in 1871. Although some of the Torres Strait islands lie just off the coast of New Guinea, they were annexed in 1879 by Queensland, then a British colony.

In 1823 Lieutenant John Lihou, then Master of HMS Zenobia, was on passage from Manila to South America and chose a route through Torres Strait. This was the first occasion a ship was navigated through Torres Strait from west to east. It was also the first occasion a ship was navigated through the Coral Sea from Torres Strait, south-eastward to the southward of New Caledonia. Lihou saw Sir James Saumarez' Shoal (now Saumarez Reefs) on 27 February and named the reef system after Vice-Admiral James Saumarez.

There was an important pearling industry from the 1860s until about 1970 when it collapsed in the face of competition from the plastics industry. Pearl-shelling was responsible for the arrival of experienced divers from many countries, notably Japan.

In 1978 an agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea determined the maritime border in the Torres Strait.

In the south the Endeavour Strait is located between Prince of Wales Island and the mainland.

Several clusters of islands lie in the Strait, collectively called the Torres Strait Islands.

There are at least 274 of these islands, of which 17 have present-day permanent settlements. Over 6,800 Torres Strait Islanders live on the Islands and 42,000 live on the mainland.

These islands have a variety of topographies, ecosystems and formation history. Several of those closest to the New Guinea coastline are low-lying, formed by alluvial sedimentary deposits borne by the outflow of the local rivers into the sea. Many of the western islands are hilly and steep, formed mainly of granite, and are peaks of the northernmost extension of the Great Dividing Range now turned into islands when sea levels rose at the end of the last ice age. The central islands are predominantly coral cays, and those of the east are of volcanic origins. The islands are considered Australian territory and are administered from Thursday Island.

The islands' indigenous inhabitants are the Torres Strait Islanders, Melanesian peoples related to the Papuans of adjoining New Guinea. The various Torres Strait Islander communities have a distinct culture and long-standing history with the islands and nearby coastlines. Their maritime-based trade and interactions with the Papuans to the north and the Australian Aboriginal communities have maintained a steady cultural diffusion between the three societal groups, dating back thousands of years at least.

Two indigenous languages are spoken on the Torres Strait Islands, known by dialect names: Kala Lagaw Ya/Kalaw Kawaw Ya/Kawalgaw, Ya/Kulkalgaw Ya, and Meriam Mir, as well as Brokan [Broken], otherwise called Torres Strait Creole. In the 2001 Australian national census, the population of the islands was recorded as 8,089, though many more live outside of Torres Strait in Australia.

This is an amazing little part of the world -- put in jeopardy on May 17 2010 by navigational error of MV Zhong Xing.

Timber Carrier M/V Zhong Xing Takes On Water & Leaks Oil In The Protected Reserve of Torres Strait, Just North of The Great Barrier Reef


Australian Maritime Safety Authority MV Zhong Xing - May 19 2010 4pm
Sheen consistent with a non-persistent diesel oil on the water has been reported within the vicinity of the MV Zhong Xing that is currently anchored 9 nautical miles from Yorke Island in the Torres Strait.

It is still to be established where the sheen has come from and if in fact it is related to MV Zhong Xing.

AMSA is continuing to monitor the situation and to verify the reports and is putting contingencies in place.

Timber Carrier MV Zhong Xing Grounded, Just Before Boarding A Pilot On The North End of The Torres Strait


Australian Maritime Safety Authority MV Zhong Xing - May 20 2010 9:30am
An AMSA surveyor spent several hours on board MV Zhong Xing yesterday afternoon (19th May).  While the vessel is still taking on water, the pumps on board are efficiently managing the ingress by pumping the water from the cargo hold and the ship is stable.

There are no obvious signs that the fuel tank has been breached and it is likely that the sheen seen yesterday was caused from diesel oil residue in the bilge when water was pumped off the vessel.  Diesel oil creates a surface sheen and then evaporates very quickly.

There was no sheen sighted by the surveyor yesterday afternoon. 

A salvage tug engaged by the owners of the ship left Port Moresby last night and it expected to reach MV Zhong Xing at midnight tonight.  The tug has a salvage crew of 8 and 3 divers.  AMSA will monitor the actions and recommendations of the salvors and based on the level of information now available, it is anticipated that the salvage operation will not be protracted.

Satellite View of The Torres Strait. The Navigational Maize is Made Clear.

The Oil Leaking Timber Carrier MV Zhong Xing Threatens A Last Remaining Paradise

Australian Maritime Safety Authority MV Zhong Xing - May 20 2010 2pm
AMSA's surveyor who is again on board MV Zhong Xing this afternoon has reported that there is no sheen in the vicinity of the vessel.  A dedicated helicopter observation flight arranged by AMSA this afternoon reported that there was no obvious signs of sheen, oil products, or debris in the vicinity of MV Zhong Xing.

She is Free! MV Zhong Xing & Her Timber Proceed to China Without Damage To The Sensitive Torres Strait

One of The World's Little Known Corners of The World Now Remains As It Was 2,500 Years Ago


Australian Maritime Safety Authority MV Zhong Xing - May 21 2010 4pm -- SHE IS FREE!
Salvors arrived at the scene of MV Zhong Xing this morning, Friday 21 May, and discussed a plan with the ship's Master and AMSA Surveyor that included a hull inspection by divers and temporary repairs to the holes in the ship's side.

The divers reported no signs of damage to the ship's hull.

Repairs were put in place to plug holes in the the ship's side (three on starboard side, one on port side).

The AMSA Surveyor has ensured that the crew have inspected the repairs to confirm that the leaks have been plugged adequately.

Reports from those onboard today and a surveillance flight over the vessel this morning reveal no sign of any sheen.

Upon advice from the Salvage Master and confirmation from the AMSA Surveyor onboard, AMSA is satisfied that oil or noxious substances are no longer expected to escape from the ship.  The Intervention Direction that was issued to the ship on Monday 17 May was revoked this afternoon, Friday 21 May.

The ship will now proceed under her own power and be escorted by Salvage tug M/V Masthead clear of Great North East Channel.


The Torres Strait Islands


The Torres Strait Islander Flag -- Proud Part of Australia

The Torres Strait Islander Flag:

This is a recognized flag of Australia under the section 5 of the Flags Act 1953.

The flag is emblazoned with a white Dari (headdress) that is a symbol of Torres Strait Islanders. The white five-pointed star beneath it symbolises the five major island groups and the navigational importance of the stars. The green stripes represent the land, the black stripes represent the people, and the blue the sea. The flag as a whole symbolizes the unity of all Torres Strait Islanders.

The Last Frontier. No Hotels. Just An Ancient People. Just Our Earth The Amazing Way It Was

Torres Strait Quarantine Zone

Quarantine Laws For Masters of Vessels Over 7 Meters (23 ft.)
The islands of the Torres Strait provide a potential route to mainland Australia for many serious quarantine pests present in countries to the north. Australia's quarantine laws are designed to manage the risk of exotic pests, weeds and diseases entering the Torres Strait, or spreading from the Strait to mainland Australia.

If you've visited or operated in the Torres Strait you must contact the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS} to arrange a vessel inspection &endash; preferably at Thursday Island before you leave the Strait, or you can report to another AQIS office up to 4 days before you first make landfall on the mainland. Visitors can contact AQIS via phone, email, VHF (channel 16) or through local harbor authorities.

Quarantine Notification Numbers

AQIS will issue visitors a Quarantine notification number after being advised of the intention of arriving at a mainland destination or following clearance procedures in the Strait. This number is recorded in the vessel's logbook as proof quarantine requirements have been met.

The Torres Strait Islands - On The Frontier

True Paradise In A Little Known Area -- Just An Airstrip

Friendly Torres Strait Islanders Welcome Those Who Respect Their Paradise

Waier Island -- A Divers Heaven In The Torres Strait -- One of Over 274 Islands In THE Paradise

Editors Note:
Visitors to the Torres Strait are encouraged. Tourist information is available for this last frontier.

We came here to investigate the threat of a grounded timber carrier, MV Zhong Xing, but our focus shifted to this true paradise -- as it returns to a tranquil natural state. We were helpless to resist.

The general lure of Australia -- from North to South -- is never over rated


Shippers Must Have Quality Marine Cargo Insurance ........ Because......... "Ship Happens! ©"

To Repeat -- No Matter How Careful You Are -- Or Who You Hire ....... "Ship Happens! ©"

Get Your "Ship Happens! ©" Gear!

Visit The Cargo Law Ship's Store For Great Industry Gift Ideas!

The Dedication of This Feature Is Simple: To The Crew of MV Zhong Xing and to the familes of the Torres Strait Islander Flag

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by air & sae continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker

It's very dangerous out there.


Important Links To Our Feature:
Torres Strait
Torres Strait Islands Map

Torres Strait Quarantine Zone

Torres Stait Pilotage Map

The Torres Strait -- by Stewart B. Kaye - the historical text

Torres Strait Visitors Information

Torres Strait Visitors Information

Our Daily Vessel Casualties - stay informed

"Singles Only" - visit our individual moments of transport crisis for more.

The Greatest Container Losses Of All Time - these are the grand fathers -

M/V OOCL America

M/V APL China

M/V APL Panama - The EPIC

"Great Misfortune"- M/V Hyundai Fortune - March 2006

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker. 

It's very dangerous out there.

Thanks To Our Contributors For The "Going Strait" Feature

Our Contributors for this feature are greatly appreciated:
Gervase Pearce -- BCS Consulting, Neutral Bay, NSW Australia

NOTE: Please Provide Us With Your Additional Information For This Loss.

EDITOR'S NOTE FOR SURVEYORS, ATTORNEYS & MARINE ADJUSTERS: The Internet edition effort of The Cargo Letter now celebrates it's 8th Year of Service -- making us quite senior in this segment of the industry. We once estimated container underway losses at about 1,500 per year. Lloyd's put that figure at about 10,000 earlier this year. Quite obviously, the reporting mechanism for these massive losses is not supported by the lines. News of these events is not posted to the maritime community. Our new project is to call upon you -- those handling the claims -- to let us know of each container loss at sea-- in confidentiality. Many of you survey on behalf of cargo interests with no need for confidentiality. Others work for the lines & need to be protected. As a respected Int'l publication, The Cargo Letter enjoys full press privileges & cannot be forced to disclose our sources of information. No successful attempt has ever been made. If a personal notation for your report is desired -- each contributor will be given a "hot link" to your company Website in each & every report. Please take moment & report your "overside" containers to us. If you do not wish attribution, your entry will be "anonymous." This will will benefit our industry -- for obvious reasons! McD

* NOTE: The Cargo Letter wants you to know that by keeping the identity of our contributors 100% Confidential, you are able to view our continuing series of "Cargo Disasters." Our friends send us materials which benefit the industry. The materials are provided to our news publication with complete and enforceable confidentiality for the sender. In turn, we provide these materials to you.  

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