This photo of the MOL Comfort shows considerable hogging.

This photo of the MOL Comfort shows considerable hogging.

Update (27 JUN): MOL Comfort stern section sinks [PHOTOS]

By Michael Grey

How on earth does a 5 year old 90,000 ton containership, built by one of Japan’s finest shipyards and operated by a tip-top liner company, come to be floating in two bits 19 miles apart?

Weather?

Welding?

Perhaps one of those 100 year waves the Met. Offices are warning us about are rather more frequent?

The smart money must surely be on the stresses induced by under-declared container weights, which shippers routinely refuse to take with any seriousness whatsoever.

Always supposing that there is a good run through the IMO, it has been suggested that it could be another three or four years before SOLAS Regulation VI/2, which provides for the “verification” of container weights, comes into effect. As the distinguished delegates undertake their deliberations on this matter, a huge picture of the after part of the MOL Comfort sitting forlornly in the Arabian Gulf might usefully be displayed on the Council Chamber screens to help focus their minds.

It is now more than six years since the emergency in the English Channel when the MSC Napoli nearly sank through an ingress of water.

It is worth underlining the views of the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which painstakingly required all the boxes retrieved from the wreck to be weighed, and note its suggestion that overweight boxes contributed to the loss of that ship.

Wheels often grind slowly in marine safety mills, but there have surely been enough warnings about excessive container weights to wake everyone up. Feeders have been regularly rolling over, fortunately in shallow water or against the quay. This clearly expensive incident which has put 25 lives and more than 4000 containers at risk ought to clarify the issues.

But we shouldn’t bet on it.

Shippers’ organisations, which have been defending their flawed position on container weights for forty years or more will still be arguing about the responsibilities for verification until the bitter end. If the salvors manage to save this ship, let us hope that every one of those boxes retrieved is weighed, and compared with the manifested declaration.

Michael Grey is the former Editor of Lloyd’s List and Fairplay, currently the London Correspondent of BIMCO and holder of a British FG Master’s Certificate. He writes for a wide range of maritime titles and lectures at the World Maritime University, Greenwich Maritime Institute and General Stevedoring Council.

Article originally posted on the Clay Maitland blog, republished with permission.

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