U.K. Warns of Shipping Containers Lurking in English Channel

Mike Schuler
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February 21, 2014

Image: AP Moller-Maersk

The U.K. Maritime and Coast Guard Agency is warning mariners to keep a close watch for shipping containers floating in the English Channel after hundreds of boxes fell from the deck of a Maersk cargo ship last week.

An update Friday from the MCA has requested members of the public and ships to report any containers seen floating in or near the English Channel after the containership Svendborg Maersk ran into some nasty weather -as in 60 knot winds and 10 meter waves nasty- as it crossed the northern stretches of the Bay of Biscay.

Earlier this week, Maersk Line said that as many as 520 containers had been lost from the deck of the ship as she sailed through the Bay of Biscay on her way to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Maersk Line noted that that 85 percent of the containers were empty and that none of the filled containers carried hazardous materials.

The MCA says that it believes that most of the containers sank in French waters about 75 nautical miles south west of Lands End. The MCA is currently conducting overflights of U.K. waters and so far three containers have been spotted, one of which is off Start Point, Devon and the other two in mid-Channel. Additional overflights are to be conducted over the weekend, the MCA said.

Ships passing through the English Channel have been warned and asked to report any sightings.

Data from the World Shipping Council, whose members represent 90 percent of the world’s container ship capacity, says that a average of 350 containers fall from ships every year, although that number does not account for “catastrophic events”. The WSC does note that total industry losses obviously vary from year to year, but it believes the real number is well below the 2,000 to 10,000 per year that is regularly quoted by the public.

In 2013, the MOL Comfort was carrying 7,041 TEUs when it sank in the Indian Ocean, but how many of those were recovered has not been released. Just saying…

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