“There’s something wrong with our bloody ships today, Chatfield” said Admiral Beatty to his flag captain at the Battle of Jutland. The same sort of comment may well have been heard at a certain Copenhagen headquarters  this week as the reports came in on the loss of more than 500 containers from the Svendborg Maersk as she struggled southwards through Biscay in horrible weather. The fact that most of them were empties and probably sunk will soften the blow for the underwriters, although the French authorities will surely be making noises of disapproval at this latest cascade of marine litter onto their seabed, if not their beaches.

It was extreme weather, without a doubt. But this was no minnow but a 7000teu, 104,000dwt cargo liner, and such a spectacular deck cargo loss will probably demand something of a post mortem.  It might provoke some discussion on the height which containers are being stacked and whether some anticipation of the prevailing weather might be taken into account when the stowage plan is being considered.

Might it be prudent to reduce the heights of these deck stacks in winter weather, in the same way that statutory seasonal variations are dictated by the Load Line rules? The new Madison Maersk, deep-laden as she arrived into Rotterdam on her maiden voyage was pictured with containers an astonishing nine-high on deck. She is one of the world’s biggest, but one would not like to think of such a ship rolling to 40degrees, as her smaller fleet sister was reported before the cargo went overboard.

It only takes a collapse in a stack through an overweight box in the wrong place, a boarding sea, or something going wrong with automatic twistlocks or lashing failures through slamming or extra-violent accelerations and there are a couple of hundred  boxes in the oggin. Perhaps it is the fault of climate change. Everything else seems to be, this horrid winter.



Maersk Line Press Release

On Friday 14 February the container vessel Svendborg Maersk, during very rough weather in the Bay of Biscay, lost a significant number of containers. The crew is safe and accounted for. Due to safety precautions it was not possible to assess the amount of lost containers before the ship was alongside in the port and daylight had broken.

The vessel called the port of Malaga on Monday evening 17 February for re-stowage of the collapsed stacks and repair of various equipment hit by shifted containers. The following examination by cargo surveyors onsite showed that around 520 containers have been lost over board. Around 85% of those lost containers were empty. Moreover, none of the containers lost over board held dangerous goods. Weather conditions at the time of the incident were severe with wind blowing 60 knots and waves reaching 10 m. Local maritime authorities were informed about the incident and nautical warning broadcasted about floating containers. Minor damages are reported to the vessel. The destination port was Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“The total number of lost containers turned out to be even worse than we feared. Svendborg Maersk experienced extreme weather conditions, but also unexpectedly forceful impact on its movements. We will now carefully examine our procedures to see if they need correction in order to avoid similar incidents in the future. As of now we remain focused on supporting our vessel crew and are dedicated to getting correct information about lost or delayed cargo to our customers and ultimately get the ship back in service as soon as possible” says Palle Laursen, Vice President of Operations, Maersk Line.

Maersk Line customers service representatives will keep customers informed of the status of their cargo as soon as it has been accurately assessed which units have been lost and which have suffered damages.