Video Captures Last Year’s Epic Collision Between Fully Laden Containerships in the Suez

Rob Almeida
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June 9, 2015


On September 29, 2014 something went terribly wrong aboard Hapag-Lloyd’s containership Colombo Express when it lost control and slammed into the Maersk Tanjong today. Both vessels were heading south through the north end of the Suez Canal.

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The collision occurred at 0715 local time at kilometer 15 and the Colombo Express suffered a 20-meter dent to its port bow, according to a statement by Inchcape Shipping Services. The statement continues:

The incident occurred when the Maersk Tanjong was clearing the Suez Canal Container terminal (on the northern end of the canal) to join the second convoy, whilst the Colombo Express was already proceeding through the convoy at the same point.

The German-flagged MV Colombo Express and the Singaporean-flagged MV Maersk Tanjong collided at the mouth of the canal, knocking three containers from the Colombo Express into the sea.

“The incident has severely interrupted the second southbound convoy and the northbound convoy is therefore expected to be delayed,” Agents Inchape Shipping Services said at the time.

From the following AIS replay of the incident, it appears the Colombo Express was attempting to overtake the Maersk Tanjong and when a left rudder was applied to come back to a parallel course, the rudder went hard left.

As rudders on ships like this are powered by large, finely tuned hydraulic systems, it is possible that the this system failed and was the cause of the incident. In fact, while in the Navy, my ship had this very same issue occur, however we were not near any other ships and were able to take manual control of the steering gears and return to port without issue.

Of course other factors such as the bank suction/cushion effect could have played a role in this incident along with the omnipresent maritime error management.

Hapag-Lloyd notes in a statement there were no injuries or pollution as a result of the incident.  Maersk Line spokesperson Michael Storgaard notes in phone call that three containers were lost over the side from the Maersk Tanjong, one has been recovered.  No further details on the damage were available however.

The M/V Colombo Express is one of the largest container ships in the world. When launched at Hyundai Heavy Industries in 2005, she was claimed by her owner to be the world’s largest container ship, a title it held until the Emma Mærsk was launched in 2006.

Colombo Express holds 8,749 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), 730 refrigerated (reefer) TEUs, is 1,099 feet (335 m) long, and has a beam, or width, of 140 feet (43 m). She is owned by the German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, and operated by its Hapag-Lloyd Container Line division. She is named for Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka

The following images are of the damage to the port bow of the Colombo Express. 

Colombo Express Damage
Colombo Express Damage
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