Another one bites the dust (well ocean floor) – Maersk Essen loses 750 containers overboard

In the latest incidence of containers falling off the ship, it has been reported that the Maersk Essen, a 10 year old mega container ship with a 13,100 TEU capacity has lost 750 containers overboard..

The Pacific Ocean is yet again the scene of this incident coming close on the heels of the ONE Apus maritime disaster in December 2020..

And yet again, heavy weather is said to be the reason for this loss as well..

maersk essen - shipping and freight resource
Image : Fleetmon

The incident is said to have occurred on the 16th of Jan and as per Fleetmon, the vessel is located somewhere in the North Pacific Ocean and more than a 100 containers were said to be drifting NW of Honolulu, on Jan 17..

The ship was en route from Xiamen to Los Angeles when it took a sharp turn southeast after crossing this area and is said to have been passing through a severe storm at the time of the incident..


The Maersk Essen which is owned by China’s Bank of Communications and operated by Maersk, is part of its TP6 Asia/US West Coast service..

WK Webster a Marine & Transit Claims Consultancy company is reporting that some of the containers have collapsed or have been damaged in the affected stacks, and that these containers will need to be removed or repositioned..

It is understood that the vessel is continuing on her journey to the already congested Los Angeles port to arrive around the 22nd of Jan ,where WK Webster will arrange surveyors to investigate the cause of the incident and to attend to any cargo surveys required..

WK Webster has advised clients with cargo on board this vessel to contact them to take steps to protect their interests..

The World Shipping Council’s (WSC) reported last year that on average, 1,382 containers are lost at sea every year although there was a brief decline during the 2017-2019 period when only 779 containers were lost every year..

The recent incidents of ONE Apus, Ever Liberal and now the Maersk Essen have proven to be contrary to this, mainly due to the ONE Apus which alone lost close to 1806 containers..

gCaptain has quoted a statement from Maersk which says :

We regret to announce the 13,100 TEU, Danish-flagged, Maersk Essen enroute from Xiamen, China to Los Angeles, California on Maersk’s TP6 Asia/US West Coast service experienced heavy seas during her North Pacific crossing on the 16th of January 2021, resulting in the loss of approximately 750 containers overboard.

All crewmembers are safe and a detailed cargo assessment is ongoing while the vessel continues on her journey. The US Coast Guard, flag state and relevant authorities have been notified.

We view this as a very serious situation which will be investigated promptly and thoroughly. Operations and vessel safety are our highest priority and we will be taking any necessary steps to minimize the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future.

A customer communications plan and claims process was urgently put in place for those customers impacted.

 

Discussions on reasons for these maritime disasters

There is a LinkedIn discussion initiated by Lars Jensen who poses the question “Do we have a structural problem with stowage on the large vessels?“..

While the discussions continue, I think Prof. Hercules Haralambides, of Maritime Economics and Logistics (MEL), has nailed it when he says :

Stowage planning –on board, at the yard, and cooperation and revisions between the two– has developed into a ‘science’ in its own right; and a very interesting one too. In addition to stability calculations, dangerous goods containers, etc., we now have to deal with the fact that bays onboard are allocated to alliance members. This introduces a sort of ‘inflexibility’ that needs to be looked at more carefully.

In my opinion stowage planning and lashing of containers may have much to do with these maritime disasters as I don’t think there is any possible way to simulate a real life heavy weather situation to test the capabilities of mega ships and all its containers loaded on board..

 

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