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Thousands of containers overboard in worst containership disaster-ONE Apus

The year 2020 has been disastrous to many in so many many ways with the whole world in a crazy tizz due various reasons – COVID-19, maritime disasters, space and equipment crunch, extraordinary freight rates, and stranded seafarers..

But 2020 looks like it is still not done with maritime disasters even as we hit the last month of the year..

In the latest maritime disaster, the ONE APUS a 14,052 TEU containership built in 2019 and operating on Ocean Network Express’s (ONE) Far East Pacific 2 (FP2) Service suffered multiple stack collapse on board due to severe weather conditions while the vessel was enroute from Yantian in China to Long Beach in USA..

ONE Apus maritime disaster - shipping and freight resource
Image :

It has been reported that the vessel encountered gale-force winds and large swells around 1,600 nautical miles northwest of Hawaii, USA and these severe weather conditions caused the vessel to roll heavily resulting in an estimated 1,816+ containers to be lost or dislodged from its lashings..

Off these 1,816 containers, 40 are believed to be carrying hazardous goods..

The ship is currently on its way to Kobe, Japan to seek to set right the dislodged and unstable containers and to assess damages to the ship if any and also to determine the exact numbers of containers lost overboard.. The ship is expected to reach Kobe on the 8th of December..

A press release from ONE said “The priority remains on getting the vessel and crew safely to port. Once berthed, it’s expected to take some time to offload the dislodged containers that remain on board. Then a thorough assessment will be made on the exact number and type of containers that have been lost or damaged.

Once the ONE Apus is in port and deemed safe, a full investigation will be conducted into this incident in conjunction with the Flag State and the relevant maritime authorities“, added the notification..

ONE has set up a ONE APUS Information Centre for the benefit of the customers..

Obviously this is only interim information and nothing can be confirmed till the vessel is berthed in Kobe and a thorough assessment done on the exact number and type of containers that have been lost or damaged and also the reasons for the incident..

A notification has been sent to the JRCC in Honolulu and Guam with maritime navigational warnings who have advised there have not been sightings of any containers as yet..

This incident once again highlights the disasters that container ships, cargo and crew could encounter due to various reasons ranging from improper lashing of containers, improper ship design, incorrect stowage planning etc..

Remember that accelerations acting on a ship during sea voyage creates a combination of longitudinal, vertical and predominantly transverse motions and the lashing and securing of the containers on board must be such that it is able to withstand these motions..

6 motions that a ship goes through while in the ocean

Linked to incidents such as this would be insurance claims including possible General Average and maybe even punitive action against ship captains like seen recently in the case of the APL England where the Captain was held responsible and charged for offences relating to pollution and/or damage of the marine environment as a result of poor cargo loading, or the Wakashio which sank off Mauritius..

As per a World Shipping Council 2020 update, it is estimated that on average 1,382 containers are lost at sea each year based on a 12 year survey done between 2008-2019..

containers lost at sea - shipping and freight resource
Image : World Shipping Council

Considering the number of containers displaced/lost, experts are of the view that this incident on the ONE Apus could be the worst ever containership disaster with potential loss and costs running into hundreds of millions.. Once the investigations are done on the ship, there will be more clarity on the reasons for this massive collapse/loss..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Let’s also look at the role and accountability of ship classification societies (IACS). It’s not fair to keep blaming ship’s masters who are inevitably put under commercial pressure to maintain schedule. Let’s also investigate the degree of support to the master provided by the ship’s Designated Person Ashore.

    • That is so true
      Some DPA’s deny the Master of basic safety requirements in the race for profits
      Now albeit the Masters final responsibility to ensure the sea-worthiness of the ship prior to sailing but then he is threatened with sacking
      The flag state authorities should have a no-blame hotline that Masters should be able to access and then voice concerns without fear of litigation

  2. A lot is said about container lashings, ship construction and design, IMO, IACS, P&I Club, etc etc. Nobody is looking at the ship planner or port captain that loads the container at each port. I’ve heard of non-competent planners doing the job of loading the ship causing various problems to the container ship.

    • Correct. Misdeclared over-weight containers remain an ongoing concern. It will be interesting to learn whether all container weights were verified before the the ship’s stowage plan was finalised?

  3. Hi Hariesh. Have seen your last question which was notified to me by email dated 7.12.20. I then clicked on Reply but I do not see your question up on the relevantweb page. Nor do I see my previous reply. Perhaps a malfunction? Anyway, my reply to your question as to why my suggested, and in your view logical, solutions constitute a problem for shipowners and regulatory authorities is as below.

    I alluded to the reality in my first comment on your blog post when I referred to cost as being the stumbling block. With reference to shipowners, none of them in today’s shipping world is going to spend more on their ship’s design, build, equipment and crew than is necessitated by IMO Conventions, flag state regulation and class rules. Why? Because no cargo shipper or charterer is going to pay more freight to ship their cargo on a ship which is safer and better equipped than the minimum required by law and class rules because there is no ‘added value’ return for doing so. Nor is any cargo insurer going to provide a premium discount for cargo shipped on a safer ship because cargo insurance is cheap anyway. As such, shipowners are not going to lead the charge on solving the container loss problem. This leaves the IMO, their flag state members and IACS to deal with it. Problem solved, right? No because the IMO is a UN organisation financially supported by its flag state members, who, in turn, are supported by their ship owner customers. And to make it really interesting, the Class Society IACS members all wear two hats: one as a Class service provider to shipowners and the other as an appointed Recognised Organisation to flag state authorities. Further, IACS (whose own members’ boards of directors include big shipowners) are also ‘Observers’ at the IMO. Conflicts of interest? Yes, huge conflicts which are effectively uncontrollable because the IMO has no mandate to control or enforce anything. Only to ‘recommend’. So in the end, it’s the big shipowners driving the IMO and they drive it where they want it to go at the pace and at a cost that suites them. And that brings us back to where we started which is that shipowners are not going to spend more than they have to, especially when they have the ability to unduly influence the rules. Sounds crazy? It is. And that is the tragedy.

    • “it’s the big shipowners driving the IMO and they drive it where they want it to go at the pace and at a cost that suites them.”

      As a shipping layman taxpayer ultimately paying for such “disaster’s” I can only support 100% that the shipping companies need to be seized, put out of business and pay ALL associated costs ensuring they cannot ever return to the business. But… we can dream.

    • Perfect description of situation, Gordon, our only hope is the way we think here at Catbark. We construct a cheaper and more safe vessel, so shipowners buy in, and on top Catbark would be wind driven, so no fuel CO2 expense. Routes will consider weather prognosis as “foiling-carrier” runs after calm seas, whereas the ONE criminally dis considered this but can not be prosecuted. Imagine if 40 Haz Containers were spill on land.

  4. REG’s reply to Hariesh’s question:
    Yes, there are solutions to massive container losses due to extreme weather/swell conditions. The key lies in the upgrading of ship stability data, container lashing strength standards, weather/swell forecasting utilisation and specialist training for the Master and crew, inclusive of synchronous and parametric rolling avoidance. No rocket science required. This could be accomplished by way of a coordinated container loss avoidance push driven by the IG P&I Clubs, cargo insurers, IACS, the ICS and the IMO. But will they do it? Probably not until, perhaps, a large number of non-seafarer people and sea life die as a consequence of the escape of hazardous materials from lost containers.

    • Thank you for that insight Capt.. “upgrading of ship stability data, container lashing strength standards, weather/swell forecasting utilisation and specialist training for the Master and crew, inclusive of synchronous and parametric rolling avoidance” seems a logical step to take.. Why is this a problem for the vessel operators to take or for maritime regulatory authorities to make it mandatory..??

  5. The underlying problem lies in the on-going failure of the IMO and the containership sector to fully appreciate
    and accept the very serious dangers of synchronous and parametric rolling in heavy swell conditions. This type of rolling amplifies the ship’s natural rolling period to a point where the forces on the container lashing system far exceed their IMO regulated design capabilities. Improvement of lashing systems would cost serious money and this is why nothing has changed. Meantime, cargo insurers and P&I clubs suck up the losses, the IMO prevaricates, and it’s ‘business as usual’.

  6. The investigation and the track will show of the master mitigated risk by changing his heading to the best to minimise the weather or whether target fixation kept him on course for destination.
    This type of damage is too severe to be just Mother Nature to be accountable.
    I will follow this with interest.


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