It’s been one year since the ONE Apus lost over 1,800 containers overboard during storm in the Pacific Ocean.
In a season highlighted by weather-related cargo loss on the trans-pacific, the incident involving ONE Apus marked the worst by far and the worst in container shipping since the total loss of the MOL Comfort, which broke in two and sank with over 4,200 containers in the Indian Ocean in 2013.
The 14,000 TEU capacity ONE Apus, operated by Ocean Network Express, was en-route to Long Beach, California, from China, when it lost an estimated 1,816 containers overboard in heavy weather approximately 1,600 nautical miles northwest of Hawaii on November 30, 2020. Hundreds more were collapsed on deck.
The number of containers from accident eclipsed the yearly average of about 1,382 containers that are lost at sea each year worldwide, according to a count by the World Shipping Council.
Other notable cargo loss accidents from last winter season included Maersk Essen, losing some 750 containers en-route from China to Los Angeles in January, Maersk Eindhoven, losing about 260 during its voyage from China to Los Angeles in February, and MSC Aries, losing a more modest 41 empty containers on its backhaul voyage to China, from Long Beach, in January. Combined that’s about 3,000 containers lost by my unofficial count.
The accidents came amid the COVID-19 induced import boom that is continuing to clog up ports in the United States. As bigger ships continue to carry more cargo across Pacific Ocean, it’s hard to imagine we don’t see a repeat of similar accidents in the winter months ahead, albeit perhaps not on the scale of ONE Apus. After all, we’ve already seen the ZIM Kingston incident, which lost over 100 boxes west of the Straits of Juan De Fuca last month leading a fire.
To make matters worse, ships this season could be slow-steam across the Pacific or loitering hundreds of miles from shore given the ports of Los Angeles’ and Long Beach’s new queuing process, which foregoes typical anchorages and loitering areas typically used by the ports.
As for the ONE Apus, it complete cargo operations in Kobe and returned to service in March because of the profits to be made in the hottest container shipping market on record.
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