750 boxes fall off Maersk ship during another Pacific storm

Maersk has confirmed another case of bad weather in the Pacific has knocked hundreds of boxes from one its ships.

The 13,100 teu Maersk Essen was midway through the Pacific bound for Los Angeles when it lost up to 750 containers on January 16 , according to claims consultancy WK Webster. As well as the boxes lost overboard during the storm, many containers have collapsed and been damaged and will need to be removed and repositioned when the ship docks in California. Its scheduled arrival into Los Angeles is tomorrow. Its calls at ports after Los Angeles are likely to be delayed.

Maersk confirmed the incident yesterday in a statement regarding the Danish flagged vessel.

“All crew members are safe and a detailed cargo assessment is ongoing while the vessel continues on her journey. The US Coast Guard, flag state and relevant authorities have been notified,” Maersk said.

Incidents of containers lost overboard, especially in the Pacific, have leapt this winter. A few days ago, Israeli carrier ZIM lost 76 boxes on a chartered in boxship, E.R. Tianping, which was making its way from South Korea to North America.

On December 31, an Evergreen Marine containership, Ever Liberal, lost 36 containers over the side after the vessel encountered severe weather off the coast of Japan on a transpacific sailing.

Meanwhile, in Kobe, operations to unload the hundreds of mangled containers on the ONE Apus are set to continue for many weeks. The Japanese boxship suffered the biggest loss of containers seen for seven years when it hit a severe storm cell in the middle of the Pacific on November 30. WK Webster, which is also involved in the ONE Apus case, has warned that the total cargo insurance claims could top $200m. Beyond the 1,816 containers that fell overboard in the storm there is an enormous volume of badly damaged boxes on deck.

Container shipping – and its insurers – are now expected to take a much closer look at the recent spate of accidents that have seen nearly 3,000 boxes spill into the Pacific in the space of just 47 days to see what correlation there is between the four accidents.

Musing on LinkedIn, Lars Jensen, one of the world’s best known container analysts, commented: “When the ONE Apus lost some 1,800 containers overboard in a Pacific storm in 2020, it could be seen as a fluke. An unfortunate one-off. Surely if there was a structural problem, this is an issue we should have seen more of given the sheer numbers of large container vessels.”

Jensen continued: “Now Maersk Essen has lost 750 containers overboard – also in a Pacific storm. Hence the question – is this a fluke twice in a row – or a sign that we might actually have a structural problem with stowage when vessels are consistently filled to brim?”

Splash and sister title, Splash Extra, will be investigating these Pacific box shipping accidents further in the coming days.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Seemingly vessels are loading or to many containers or the containers are not lashed/locked secure enough, more and more messages abt lost containers are being published. It is not strange that the largest containervessels are losing containers.
    Especially for (sailing) yachts these lost containers are a big danger as some seem to remain floating for a long time just below the water surface. Imagine what happens if a glasfibre or carbon sailing yacht hits a container. Such yachts may sink very fast and possibly instantly because of the large hole or damage that will be caused by such a steel container to a yacht under sail mnot giving the crew even a change to prepare for abandoning their yacht.
    This is a very serious problem for yachts and now several thousand containers are floating or lost at sea last few weeks.
    This must stop.

  2. And so it goes, storm after storm, boxboat after boxboat. So far as l’m aware, no lives have been lost. They will have to take these Masters off weather-routing, and allow them to make their own decisions. It could be that to avoid these storms a very wide evasive track may be necessary, one the charterers will be loathe to swallow. But surely that’s better than hundreds of containers lost, the ship delayed for a month discharging the mess. But l suspect the control freaks who run these companies, office-wallahs all, with no practical sea experience, will continue to believe their computer spreadsheets.
    The Masters of these ships are put under unrelenting pressure to maintain the schedule and follow weather-routing. I have said before that weather-routing never did me any good. When the weather is below gale force these ships can follow any track, so weather-routing is a luxury. Once a storm threatens, a Master should be free to evade it as his experience, training and education see fit. More, if he is experienced, he will have a ‘feel” for the approaching severe weather, it’s likely track, and the “feel” of his ship, what it can handle,
    All these will suggest the safest course to be taken to avoid the storm and to minimize damage. I would hate to have been the Master of the “ONE” ship that lost 1815 containers, being weather-routed, under the rule “Damned if you do, damned If you don’t”’.

    1. well said , indeed nailed it …. the insurer should shake the owners head so to empower their masters to think as used to be ; safety over money .. few days delay and extra bunker are nothing to compare with such huge loss and environmental damage .. i was sailing on that route on tanker and had to change course southbound to be able avoid huge storm… if listened to the office smartass, probably would not be writing this comment now

    2. Would be interesting to know if the vessels were using weather routing, shore based, or using on board systems. If on board systems then the master is in full control, assuming he is looking at the onboard system. Even with shore based weather routing the master has the final say. Suspect that with tight schedules and company demand to meet the schedule too many captains put ETA ahead of safety in order to satisfy the office bureaucrats.

        1. The Master was unlucky. If He hit good weather , there would not be any dispute and there would not be any HIll Harmony case. And the decision , although controversial is not a problem either. I may be wrong , but the interpretation of the decision results by un-licenced personnel in the employers Office, who have the power to dismiss and give orders to ship master is the problem.

          I have received circular letters and seen on other ships, files/records advising fleet masters of time chartered vessels to strictly follow the charterers recommendation regarding the choice of route.

          Old salts with some rudimentary understanding of their role as ship master,, shrugged it off but younger generation honed in the acts of absolute obedience and obeisance will follow strictly and without question.

          And nowadays with all the eyes in the sky watching us all any deviation can be seen ( although not in Wakashio case).

          Master will be confronted immediately by charterers watchdogs and having ignored the ranting, surely would face the wrath of his employers superintendents , who are hysterical about not upsetting the precious client paying 35K crunchy and crispy usd per day.

          You do it once , may be two times and when time is ripe and within your contract sign-off brackets- rather sooner then later, your next port is AIRPORT. Your contract is expired upon landing at home and You may forget your next employment . No questions , no disputes no way to present your arguments . NADA ,ZILCH – all in silent mode and smiles.

          No vacancy available for You now Capt. You will be informed in due time, which should be translated into INFINITY. Above description applies to experienced time charter environment . And this could be very well handled by our experts here on human rights abuse., what will be most welcome.

    3. Lack of experience for the New masters Which employees by the company and like u said pressure from operations to maintain the schedule and very important thing that is the mantannac of lashing gear which is becom only on paper due to huge amount of loos lashing material and no time to do so

  3. ”When the ONE Apus lost some 1800 containers overboard in a Pacific storm in 2020, it could be seen as a fluke”……is this a fluke or twice in a row” By which myopic observer in which parallel universe could this be seen as a fluke and whose memory is so short or blinkered that many other recent incidents have been forgotten?????
    ONE alone had already scored two other catastrophic overboarding incidents prior to the Apus losses, APL had lost a bunch of containers off Australia, MSC Zoe in the Waddenzee and there have been a string of incidents of lost container loads and collapsed stacks, stretching back several years.
    Do the famous analysts have such short or selective memories?

    1. Great comment,Martyn! Spot on! But l suspect the charterers have so much power in the market that no changes will occur, even if there is considerable loss-of-life. So now we have a new ‘bogeyman’ to add to the list responsible for jeopardizing seamen’s lives. If l were writing my M.Sc. dissertation today, l would have to add an additional category, the container ship charterer, for analysis.

    2. Perhaps its time for a new ISO standard of more heavily reinforced containers? Or perhaps stacks should be leavened with skeletonized “spacers” – containers with no goods inside, just corner castings and diagonal cross members inside for added strength and rigidity? Is it feasible to eliminate lashed-down cargo and use only cell guides?

    3. Great observation. But I would not worry about the condition of analysts memories. I would rather worry about the condition of Managers/COEs state of their minds and vision as they seem to look the other way.

      For the condition of analysts minds please be so kind and see/listen to a series of 3 webinars arranged by………. tab CMAPAIGNS> sub TAB Cargo integrity campaign , where TRUE experts are voicing their opinions and reveal findings. For an old sea dog it has been a very sweet music to listen to people who know the ropes inside out, as only people who ” know” can fix it or provide clues how to fix it.

      And Britannia P&I will host a Loss Prevention webinar 28.01.21 were some interesting opinions can be expected.

      I am very glad and relieved , that finally there seems to be a great mobilisation of people, who have the know-how and willpower not only to say “enough is enough” but also indicate the true root causes and show the path to fix the problem or seriously mitigate the effects of the problem.

  4. Just out of curiosity: Is the shipper not obliged to cater for the retriving of the lost containers (if possible)?

    1. Alias Jette.
      FYG :
      The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, was adopted by an international conference held in Kenya in 2007.
      The Convention provides a set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea.
      Check out the definition /description of ” WRECK”

      Also study the UNCLOS

      After that , You will have all the answers to your question.

      The obligations of shippers are contained in the Contract of Afreightment – see the smallest print in the world in the B/L or sea waybill. Strongly advise legal counsel for interpretation.

      The obligations between the carrier and the ship owner/manager in case of T.C. are described in great detail in C.P. including raider cls and vessel’s description addendum.

  5. The North Pacific in winter is notorious for bad weather. That is no fluke by any measure.
    As of now, with as many large box ships losing cargo over the side during heavy weather, this too, is no fluke. I have come to believe for obvious reasons, the basic container design and historical lashing gear equipment and use, are not sufficient for safe carriage aboard the mega ship designs of today. The stack weights with expected crushing and collapse under such racking stresses and motion during heavy weather, seems to be the culprit here.
    Sadly, nobody seems interested in investigating the real problem beyond simply saying “the ship was in bad weather”

    1. Well Jette, l’m afraid the only intelligent answer should be “Look to your contract!” And that is the only valid answer. All else is speculation. But there may be amongst our brotherhood some who have worked for Maersk on a comparable charter who could enlighten us.

  6. Why can’t they stack them like a pallet is stacked with one row going one way and the next row going the other and so on? That would “lock” the rows together

  7. Time is money ,so is a container. Hungry for $. Lashing of containers may be looked at.The old fashionway may not suitable anymore like twistlocks and some lashing rods.

  8. I second the opinion shared by Capt. Colin Smith in the previous comments. Firstly, safe manning and rest hours are a complete joke. Its all on paper. Secondly, the immense influence that charterers hold over the vessel owner/operator create a situation wherein the shipboard mgmt. is under constant pressure to meet ETA/Discharge metrics. The seaman’s life has become worthless. A sorry state of affairs.

  9. While detailed investigation on these accidents are being carried out, I would like to offer a plausible technical view point:
    Today’s mega container ship designs feature a wide beam and large bow and stern flares in order to carry more containers above the load waterline, while still minimizing resistance with a streamlined underwater hull. In moderately high head or stern seas, the stability varies due to the changing water plane area as the position of wave crests travel along the hull. When the bow is down due to moderate pitching coupled with a slight roll, the large flare is fully immersed in the wave crest. The restoring buoyancy force plus the wave excitation force “pushes” the ship to the other side when the vessel is very “tender” due to changing stability at this instant. A similar action will happen on the other side as the bow pitches down in the next cycle. This repeated pumping action, which can lead to increasingly large roll angles within a few cycles even in moderately high head or stern seas, is called “parametric roll”.
    These unexpected events are contradictory to normal seamanship practice. While captains are trained to head the vessel into the sea to reduce synchronous rolling when close to the natural period of roll, doing this only exacerbates the situation and frequently leads to container damages or lost overboard due to excessive accelerations and lashing failures. Furthermore, design criteria of lashing system on these ultra large container ships are often less stringent than those for smaller container ships because of their huge size. ( BTW, there is no unified IACS rules on container ship design, shipyards can choose the classification society which offers the best deal. )
    However, once a vessel is in roll resonance, the wave energy will keep pumping into the system, resulting in excessive accelerations as great as the smaller size container ships. Unless mitigating strategies are implemented in lashing, weather routing algorithm to avoid such conditions and provide real-time warning plus seakeeping guidance to officers on watch, such accidents will continue to occur. The reason why we don’t see many similar accidents in previous years is because most of these large container ships were lightly loaded due to lack of cargo. Now these ships are fully loaded. Parametric roll resonance comes into play when the large bow flares are immersed in waves due to ship motions.

    1. Pareciera la mejor respuesta, muy técnica y clara de entender. Felicitaciones y gracias!

    2. Thank you Henry – VVOS tool is helpful to Master who can see the risk in advance as well as good advisory and avoiding action..

  10. From the James Bond novel Goldfinger

    “The first time is an occurrence, the second time a coincidence, but the third time it is enemy action”

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