U.S. Authorities Monitoring 76 Containers Lost from Maersk Ship Off North Carolina

Maersk shipping container
Photo credit: Nieuwland Photography / Shutterstock.com

U.S. authorities including the Coast Guard, NOAA and Environmental Protection Agency on Saturday are continuing to monitor and track approximately 76 stray cargo containers that fell from a Maersk containership about 17 miles off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina.

On Sunday, March 4, the containership Maersk Shanghai alerted Coast Guard watchstanders via VHF-FM channel 16 that they lost about 70 cargo containers during a heavy roll.

Maersk later confirmed the total number of containers lost overboard was 76 as well as their contents, the Coast Guard reported on Saturday. A. P. Moller-Maersk reported one of the containers lost at sea was carrying about 5,900 pounds of sulfuric acid.

There are no indications any containers of sulfuric acid have surfaced or washed up on shore, according to the Coast Guard. No other hazardous materials were reported in the containers.

“Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City crews, Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft crews and aircraft crews contracted by the shipping company have conducted multiple overflights, locating nine containers on the surface. At present, only two of the nine sighted containers remain floating.

“The Coast Guard has designated the floating containers as hazards to navigation. The owners of Maersk Shanghai contracted a salvage company to place tracking devices and lights on the containers. The Coast Guard continues to issue Safety Marine Information Broadcasts to inform boaters of the positions of the known containers.

“Maersk has also developed a plan to use side-scan sonar to locate the submerged containers to determine their risk to safe navigation and environmental impact. Weather and sea conditions will determine how quickly they are able to effectively survey the area.

“Plans developed by Maersk to ensure safe navigation and minimize impact to the environment and marine life will be approved by the Coast Guard, NOAA and EPA prior to execution,” the Coast Guard said.

“Our main priority is ensuring the safety of navigation in the area and addressing potential environmental impacts,” said Coast Guard Capt. Bion Stewart, commanding officer, Sector North Carolina. “We are working with NOAA, the EPA, the National Park Service, state and local emergency management and the responsible party to reduce navigation and environmental hazards as quickly as possible.”

Mariners are reminded to notify the Coast Guard of container sightings at 910-362-4015 or on VHF-FM channel 16.

Following the initial incident, Maersk Shanghai continued sailing for Charleston, South Carolina, where it was inspected at anchor offshore. The ship has since sailed for Freeport, Bahamas, where salvage of the collapsed containers and undamaged containers will take place.

Maersk Shanghai is a 10,081 TEU containership built in 2016 and currently sailing on Maersk Line’s TP11 service. The vessel is flagged in Liberia.