On 31 October 2020, 34 containers were lost overboard from the Netherlands registered general cargo vessel Francisca, near Duncansby Head in the North Sea. Francisca was on passage from Iceland to the Netherlands when severe weather conditions were encountered. The deck cargo of containers was struck by green sea forces when Francisca was pitching heavily into the waves, causing stacks to collapse and containers to be lost overboard. All but one of the containers was empty and some debris from the laden container washed up ashore. None of the containers were recovered and Francisca suffered minor damage on deck. There were no injuries.

The MAIB’s preliminary assessment found that Francisca’s violent pitching and ploughing into the heavy seas resulted in a rapid loss of speed and heading control, which exposed the deck cargo to green sea forces capable of overwhelming the maximum loading of the container securing arrangements. Regular passages between Iceland and the Netherlands meant that Francisca’s crew had become accustomed to operating in the often poor weather in the North Atlantic, Pentland Firth and North Sea, and this had lowered their appreciation of the significant weather-associated risks. The preliminary assessment also identified that the absence of a protective breakwater at the vessel’s bow increased the risk of cargo loss in heavy weather, and corrosion to the vessel’s deck cargo securing arrangements may have contributed to the scale of the loss.

Actions taken
As a result of the MAIB’s preliminary assessment, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the vessel’s technical manager, VMS Ship Management BV, and the charterer, Longship BV, advising them of the safety issues identified by this accident so that internal measures can be taken to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Source: MAIB (UK)