The containership ONE Apus arrived at the Port of Kobe, Japan on Tuesday after its eight-day trek from the middle of Pacific Ocean where it lost nearly 2,000 containers during a storm.
“Chidori Ship Holding LLC as owners and NYK Shipmanagement Pte Ltd as managers of the container vessel ONE Apus (IMO# 9806079) can confirm that the ship is now safely berthed in the Port of Kobe after losing 1,816 containers overboard when it encountered severe weather on Monday, November 30, 2020,” the latest update said.
While there a full safety inspection of the vessel and its remaining cargo will take place to reveal the full extent of the damage. An update from the ship’s owners and managers said those operations are expected to take at least a month.
“Once the vessel and cargo are declared safe, surveyors from the various stakeholders will make their initial assessments whilst stowage planners and stevedores formulate and implement a plan to ensure the safe removal of the remaining units,” the update said. “Then, a thorough evaluation will be made on the exact number and type of containers that have been lost or damaged and damage to the vessel.”
According to initial figures published the owners and manager, some 1,816 containers were lost overboard as a result of severe weather conditions when the ship was approximately 1,600 nautical miles northwest of Hawaii. Among those lost were 64 Dangerous Goods containers, including 54 with fireworks, eight containing batteries and two with liquid ethanol.
According to the owners and managers, weather at the time of the cargo loss was reported as wind force 4 on the Beaufort Wind Scale, corresponding to 13-18 mph winds, with north-westerly seas of 5 to 6 meters and a “long high swell”. Weather maps however show significant wave heights of up to 16 meters associated with the weather system encountered by the vessel.
The ONE Apus is a 14,000 TEU containership built in 2019 measuring 364-meters in length and sailing under the Japanese flag. The vessel is operated by Ocean Network Express on the Far East Pacific 2 (FP2) Service. The vessel is one of seven 14,000 built for ONE Line, which was established in 2017 through the merger of the container businesses of major Japanese shipping companies Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd (“K” Line), Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK).
It’s hard to say how many boxes are impacted:
Record Cargo Loss
Based on the estimated number of containers lost, the ONE Apus incident is thought to be the liner shipping industry’s worst cargo loss since the MOL Comfort sank in the Indian Ocean in 2013. Many online have also been asking how something like this can happen. While cargo loss of this magnitude is unprecedented, similar past incidents may hold some clues. For example, the Svendborg Maersk lost 517 units in the Bay of Biscay in 2014 and the MSC ZOE lost 342 units in the North Sea in 2019. Those incident are previously believed to be two of the worst cargo losses on record.
Regarding the MSC Zoe, a Dutch Safety Board investigation revealed route-specific risks and extreme hydrodynamic forces acting on the ship, the containers, and lashing systems, as the primary cause. In the Svendborg Maersk incident, the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board identified heavy rolling when conditions became more severe than forecasted as the probable cause. In both cases, human factors combined with adverse weather conditions resulted in extreme ship motions that ultimately led to cargo loss.
As bigger and bigger containerships continue to enter into service (the biggest today are about 23,000 TEU capacity), so do questions related to their safety, especially with incidents related to extreme cargo loss or fire, as was the case in the Maersk Honam incident.
Speaking to the ONE Apus loss, the owners and managers said in a FAQ:
“The vessel’s operational equipment, cargo gear, and propulsion machinery are in good condition and the officers and ratings are highly motivated, experienced, loyal and well-trained seafarers. The root cause analysis and full investigation will look at all aspects of the situation, including the vessel’s routing, loading, equipment and fitness for purpose in very extreme weather. We must ensure no such loss occurs again.”
The ONE Apus will be investigated by the Flag State (Japan) and other relevant maritime authorities.
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