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MSC Zoe cleanup encounters more problems

Stormy weather continues to hamper efforts to clean up boxes from the MSC Zoe in the North Sea.

A total of 281 containers fell off the huge boxship on January 2, sparking both a navigational and an environmental crisis in the busy waters bordering the Netherlands and Germany.

Salvors have had to contend with waves up to 6 m high over the weekend as they seek to fulfil MSC’s mission to pick up every single lost container. Most boxes are at a depth of between 20 m and 30 m, on what is one of the busiest stretches of waterways in Europe.

Cleanup operations on shore at a pair of Dutch islands have encountered vast quantities of plastic granulate, a raw material for the plastics industry, which is very harmful to the environment and virtually impossibly to pick up by hand. The University of Groningen is now mapping the problem and has created a special app, which can be downloaded at, whereby locals and visitors can send photos and report where and how much plastic they find.

Meanwhile, the 19,224 teu MSC Zoe is likely to remain in the port of Bremerhaven for weeks, because the tightly wedged containers on deck are proving difficult to take out. Bremerhaven authorities are looking into the cause of the incident.

“MSC is in contact with customers about cargo onboard the containership MSC Zoe. The vessel was relatively undamaged by the incident in the North Sea on January 2 and is operational,” a spokesperson for MSC in Geneva told Splash today, while declining to give the precise timeline of when the ship will leave the German port.

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.


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