Two commendable aspects arising from the ONE Apus box collapse

It’s clearly the most talked about, eagerly viewed shipping story of the month, but there are two commendable things I’d like to alert readers to about the calamity onboard the ONE Apus boxship.

The ship suffered the biggest loss of containers seen for seven years when it hit a severe storm cell in the middle of the Pacific 10 days ago. The battered remains of its boxes on deck shocked readers on Tuesday when the magenta-coloured vessel limped into the Japanese port of Kobe.

As is customary when an accident happens Splash readers have been dissecting every possible angle for how the box spill might have happened. It is a miracle there were no serious injuries from this storm encounter and the Japanese accident investigation report will be required reading. This is Ocean Network Express’s third reported box spill in less than two years, so I am sure the operations department at its Singapore HQ is busying itself reviewing how its goods are loaded and stored.

Anyway, getting back to the two things I wanted to commend ONE for in relation to this disaster.

First, the very open communication of the accident – daily updates on a dedicated webpage – brilliant, transparent and, frankly, a shining light for other shadier shipping types to learn from.

Secondly, if we take it as read that this accident happened because of giant waves slamming the ship in a storm, this is a phenomenon that our industry is going to have to put up with more and more and yet so few shipping leaders discuss what climate change means for daily maritime operations. One notable exception, ironically, is Jeremy Nixon, ONE’s CEO, whose forthright views on the climate emergency facing the planet and shipping, have been aired at many conferences in recent years.

Speaking as keynote at the TOC Asia exhibition last year, for instance, Nixon pointed out that growing fierce weather patterns are causing delays for ports and ships around the world, principally in Asia where the number and ferocity of typhoons are growing.

“Global warming is happening,” Nixon said, and this has led to more adverse weather and more cyclones and typhoons rumbling through key shipping lanes.

Nixon’s repeated messaging about climate change affecting ship operations needs to be heeded.

Again, it is way too early to say exactly what happened out in the middle of the Pacific on December 1, but weather experts tracking ONE Apus’s path that day suggest the storm cell it hit could – and I stress the word could – have seen it be hit by waves as high as 16 m, that is approximately the height of a five-storey residential building.

Global warming is creating more freak waves, more ferocious and sudden storms far out to sea. Ship designs – and cargo configuration – of the future will need to absorb these fast changing weather patterns.

It’s interesting to note the Irish Navy, looking at fleet replacement at the moment, are tweaking the design of their future ships because they believe climate change has contributed to far rougher weather and far bigger waves in the Atlantic.

The Japanese investigation into the ONE Apus accident needs to be both thorough and far reaching.

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. I have cargo on this ship. You mentioned a live update site but did not include a link and I cannot seem to locate it. Can you please provide a link?

      1. Thanks Sam, I also have/had cargo on this ship. There are reports that seem to know exactly how many containers are lost and even how many of those were Hazardous or contained fireworks, but I can’t even find out if my container is still aboard. The web site does not really tell us anything new. Lost a bunch of cargo, going back to Japan, going to be a while before they can get is sorted out. We knew that the day the ship turned around.

  2. I’m a retired Master. I notice “storm cells”, “freak waves”, are given as the usual culprits. You should look at the behavoir of weather routing companies here. Contrary to belief, they do not route vessels for safety, they route them for fuel efficiency, which generally means great circles, pushing ships INTO the bad weather. A fool can tell you that passages nearer to the equator will give calmer seas, but no-one wants to pay for the extra fuel. So long as insurers are willing to pick up the bills for these practices, this will continue. Sadly the words “rhumb line” have been forgotten. You can always dodge the weather, but it might cost you a few litres of fuel. The North Pacific has always been a hotbed of bad weather, storms in the winter, thick fog in the summer.

  3. As stated very well in the article, everybody in the shipping should see what is coming… We are not far away from the time that some areas over the oceans whould not be possible to be sailed from any ship. The change in weather conditions all around the world is happening. And this is from a Master Mariner that the past 15 days was facing one storm after the other in North Pacific.

  4. Quote
    What were the prevailing weather/sea conditions when the incident occurred?
    Wind force BF 4, Seas – North-westerly, 5 to 6 meters, long high swell.

    Elsewhere, the website states that the vl encountered a STORM CELL.

    UKHO may have to rewrite the Seafarer’s Handbook

  5. Thank you, Sam, for illuminating a positive sea change in maritime practices. ONE did absolutely the right thing by being open and transparent. It’s CEO has focused more on reality and less on what is “politically correct”. We need more clear voices to be willing advocates for change!

  6. My contribution to the debate, posted on another site yesterday:
    During my time on container ships we had a computer based training program (cheaper than a real course at a college) that detailed the stresses imposed on the ship structure by the direction of various wave/swell systems.
    It’s not just in really bad weather that this sort of incident can occur.
    I just missed the college based course, where you got to discuss heavy weather, and responses to it, with other sailors as well as lecturers.
    Just too expensive for shipping companies to afford I suppose, although not as expensive as losing 1800 boxes over the wall. But the insurance industry picks up that cost, doesn’t it?
    Anyway the CBT emphasised that, often, the torsional stresses were far greater around midship (old Panamax size box boats) than the obvious dangers forward or aft.
    Nowadays another consideration is the reluctance of some Masters to deviate from the course line to mitigate heavy movement of the vessel as this must be justified to the office.
    (Because they’re always watching).
    I do remember, during my time in command, our Technical department refusing to fix our stabilisers because that came out of their budget so they’d show up badly at the quarterly accounting meeting.
    Cargo damage and crew fatigue/injury,
    obviously, didn’t.
    So the financial incentive is biased towards no, or relatively useless, CBT courses, on heavy weather and not fixing the technical solutions originally designed in to mitigate it.
    Until this is remedied and, let’s face it no-one will, this sort of incident will continue.
    With, afterwards, all the ‘lessons have been learned’ nonsense we’ve become familiar with.
    ‘Climate change’ has very little to do with it, we’ve always had to contend with bad weather. Well I have… maybe I’m a Jonah and bad weather followed me around?

    1. Agree with you. Climate change is an easy excuse for overloaded above the rail container ships. Ships are bigger with more cargo stowed above the rail line so of course you will have more loss during an accident. These storms have always been near the Aleutian island chain this time of year. The North Shore of Oahu didn’t just start getting waves in the last 20 years, the frequency of the swells have not increased.

  7. I mentioned Weather Routing in a remark earlier this week.
    Another of my wide range of interests is aviation, where several incidents have been ascribed to the Japanese cultural issues in the cockpit. Is there a cultural problem of deference between ONE Captains, their Officers and the land-based HQ, leading to a reluctance to deviate from the direct sailing route to avoid big weather?
    If there is a problem of conflict avoidance based on hierarchy then this needs to be confronted and addressed as it was in the aviation business many years ago.
    Ultimately, the Captain is still responsible for his aircraft or vessel and Safety of crew and vessel must always be the highest consideration. The dialogue between ship, planners and owners must prioritise safety and not yield to commercial pressure.

  8. Is it a good idea to implement stabilisers in these huge container ships? Their speed will be sufficient for optimal effect.

    Simon J. de Waard

  9. I strongly suspect that the investigation will reveal that the loss of containers will be related to parametric rolling, a latent design characteristic/flaw in large container ships and car carriers. The APL China and Maersk Carolina encountered parametric rolling, each losing or damaging hundreds of containers.

    1. Spot on Sir. But how about freak wave, resulting in deep roll that knocks the M/E out or a powerfull bow hit affecting the M/E in a similar way. I had it once on 6.5 K TEU but was lucky although my pants needed change. 😜

  10. The first contention that ONE has done a great job “being open & transparent” is debatable. What option do they have? As I write this, pictures and videos of this ship have gone viral over even non-maritime sites. ONE has to develop a specific website addressing this accident if for no other reason than to inform the THOUSANDS of customers that have cargo aboard this ship that now will have to wait even further (months???) for it’s delivery. This … as Christmas shopping season is upon us. What an untimely disaster.

    The second contention that “fierce weather” is a significant contributor to these accidents is likely true. But the sideways blame on ‘global warming’ is causing more bad weather might be subject to debate. It seems that is an easy whipping boy or an excuse these days, for anything. Here in the Central Pacific, Hawaii has just closed our “Hurricane Season” and we had one of the most significantly quiet storm seasons in recent years.

    But weather is what it is. THAT has always been an issue since the beginning of time. Shipowners and naval architects need to dedicate themselves to re-evaluating overall design concepts, weighing what owners “want” versus what they should safely “have” with respect safely operating vessels that are built within a reasonable size range. Nixon himself was quoted (April 9 2019), ” … terminals across the world that have struggled to keep up with the supersizing of box ships.” Yes, indeed. Further, Nixon also stated; “…rail terminals had been slow to develop and trucking availability and high costs are a constant problem.”

    Yet owners continue to build Ultra-Large container ships!?! And Class Societies happily endorse their construction. Regulators dare not say “no” to anything. Port State Control authorities simply shrug their shoulders and say, “Wow?! Oh well, here we go.” I’m curious how many more disasters have to occur before some entity finally says, “Maybe we should take another look at this?” Capt. Smith equated this to the era of creating the Plimsoll Mark as a means of reducing the loss of old sailing ships and the seafarers onboard. Perhaps his thought was correct. What does it take for the industry to honestly evaluate itself and what we are doing?

    1. Alias Capt. Ed Enos
      Capt. Very interesting read and thought provoking. Thx.
      May I suggest the following research :
      b) Collapse of cargo containers during heavy weather on container vessel Annabella- Maib report
      c) Marine Accident Report: Heavy Weather Damage On Svendborg Maersk- DMAIB report
      Would be great to read, what is your take on above, if You Capt care to read that.

      I am a bit sceptical about noticeable obsession in the discussion with SIZE . Does size matter? – well yes , it does as smaller vessel looses less cargo then bigger vessel , same applies to oil spills- would You agree.? Not to be attacked by some irritated and perturbed individuals , I declare herewith, that understand, I may be wrong.

      However I am a bit disappointed , that the panel has not touched for 7 days on other issue or issues what leads me to item:
      Capt .When You buy anything – car, equipment, build a house it must be used for intended purpose.
      It is designed by people with I think more then mere academic/engineering know how. Who apart from calculating all parameters aided by powerful computers,, provide the user with a carefully written type specific instruction manual with even some repair kits or other peripheral equipment.
      There are two manuals of PARAMOUNT importance , which master of the box ship must be intimately familiar with and at least one piece of equipment needed to determine if the vessel is used within specified by the builder parameters. As if not , then stay assured an accident may happen. So may be some readers will think about it. The clues are in literature above quoted.

      And out of curiosity a question to all readers ( if they do not mind) boasting insider knowledge regarding planning, loading , lashing and operations, handling of post-panamax vsls . What in your kind opinion is the most comfortable GM , You as captains would like to sail with?
      Your comments will be very much appreciated. Thank You.

      1. “I am a bit sceptical about noticeable obsession in the discussion with SIZE . Does size matter? ”

        The amplitude and accelerations increase with a broader beam and a higher stack. Just like in a pendulum…because the angular speed is a constant.

        The lashings for the uppermost and the outermost container get the maximum load stress.

        1. Alias Pikeman.
          Yours is an excellent observation and a confirmation of a well known fact in physics learned as I recall by 8th graders.
          However , I am very pleased, that at least one member of this panel has such an in depth insight and is voicing his opinion. So there are two of us who fully agree on that issue .

          Now You claim that is the reason of container loss and I dare say it is only partly true. So lets think together. My question to You is then : do You really believe , that 8th grader physics and math is beyond grasp and comprehension of a naval engineer , architect and the whole shebang of people involved in design, construction and building of a ship , when their education took them at least 17 years including 5 years academic/polytechnic and/or other similar institutes of higher learning????? You surely do not want to convince viewers , ships are designed , constructed and built by ditch diggers . Do You????

          Hence I am pretty sure ,those architects and designers and consequently similar personel from a class society have taken very good care of the issue You were so kind to mention ,when contemplating stacks on deck 9-10 high. You surely have seen or may do some research to find the difference between the lashing concepts of the 80’s 90’s prior ISM code era and nowadays . I am sure You will appreciate the differences in design , construction , type ,SWL , breaking loads of FIXED and loose lashing equipment of a 1800 Teu ship and lets say 15000 Teu ship.

          I admit though , that even this smart people make mistakes, as design of automatic t’locs turned disastrous and in 2007 several PandI Clubs strongly recommended the withdrawal of such equipment from operations.

          So tell me my Dear debunking false theories Team Member – ( we are a team now – are we not??) Tell me something about Container Securing Manual as I believe you are a frequent user of it , while loading your post-panamax baby . ( forget IMGDG, Reefers, Specials as it is not an issue now) focus on weights only and on lashing. Class approved Loadicator will be our next topic if You agree, but not now .

          Remember I am not engaging You in a beauty contest , it is not about wining or loosing, i am not setting a trap here- it is about finding the truth , as it is in the human nature to find the truth -is it not??? Pls do not rush to other topics not to muddy the waters , lets move step by step .Trust the Editors will allow us this comfort and may be give more time for this discussion.

          Rem: what about Your impression and comments about research material I have suggested not only for Capt.Ed Enos perusal ???? and the question about GM is still outstanding. and valid Thank You

          1. Let me tell You something. You must be very naive thinking , that somebody here , who have not done stability/strength calculations using a pencil , piece of paper and a calculator, who has never used different stability/lashing programs for many years , never read back to back stability booklets and never analysed in detail the contents of Container Securing Manual , never planned a ship for money or pro bono and in short, have never done this job for a living but made a pile by talking about this job ,will pick up some of the clues mentioned and elaborate or expand on them. FORGET ABOUT IT . LEAVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!, do not waste your time.

            As I have mentioned in one of my comments ” the bow that fall off ” is the most favourite topic as one may talk at length about it ,without diving into devil’s details and appear extremely savvy, spinning buzzwords like ” economy of scale” , “sustainability”, “virtual arrivals”, and other fancy words used by spin doctors and own P.R. boosting specialist.

            Have examined -looked you up on Your FB public profile and read some of Your comments. You seem to be a nut/buff, who converted his work into passion , you seem to be an ISM addict a slave of SMS , worshipper of rules and regulations. That is crazy!!!!.

            Liked You public shared ,doomsday prediction dd: December 10 at 12:58 PM ·

            Sort of nails it.
            Apart of some some obvious platitudes, liked the part regarding lashing and
            in comments section to above ” DO NOT BE SHOCKED. EVEN BRIGADIERS GENERALS FROM US JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF ARE TALKING ABOUT WEIRD CONTAINER SHIPMENTS and below is not only!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the CHINA THING.”

            Indeed it is shocking.

            Stay assured i have dived deep -very deep in your profile, containing rubbish mixed with some interesting findings and items from P and I Clubs. Have found also Your quite interesting piece on Maersk Honam fire in March 2018. I may be wrong but it looks like the one I saw in http://www.maritimebulletin. news joint.

            With all these mp3, zipped correspondence with various managers, parties , scanned docs and zillion bytes of evidence , collected in some 20 + years of experience,You may be an interesting whistle-blower and it seems You are prepping for that . I may be wrong of course, so forgive my suspicious thoughts.

            So let me give You a friendly advise and a word of caution: be careful, as You may end like WikiLeaks bloke and die of resulting stress, fear and depression or may be, your future schedule will be overloaded from calls to be an expert witness and You also may die of being overloaded with work and resulting exhaustion, which at your advanced age of 60 or about could be fatal.

            So, friend -think about it , take a chill pill .The choice of route is master’s choice only – it has always been for at least 3000 years of history , tradition and customs in navigation. Choose wisely. as choice and RISK is yours only.
            Have a good day.

    FORGET –
    etc etc
    B 3 [ CUBE !!!!]

  12. I know of low long swells. I have never heard of LONG HIGH SWELLS, at least not in open oceans, Anyone here care to comment on this?

  13. Parametric rolling is a theoretical postulation cooked up by armchair experts working in their comfortable confines ashore. It is not a confirmed phenomenon. However, it is a useful tool to get away with murder.

  14. This accident just goes to prove that ships of this size would be safe if they were to reduce their container load by 1800 TEUs

  15. Whether you like it or not increased wave heights over past years is an emerging phenomenon.And yes it is due to global warming. Is the IMO revisiting the Load Line and Ship Construction rules to enhance the scantlings of ships soon to be built to improve their strength and survivability? Probably not until after there have been some tragic avoidable losses of ships, cargo and seafarers. Then the stable door will slam after the horse has bolted.

  16. Remember 1998 APL China, very similar situation only this time the loss is bigger.
    Go to the nord pacific during winter if you want to see 15 m high waves.
    The master had the chance to choose: to go or not to go.

    1. Alias Harry Hasting
      Yours is very accurate and thought provoking observation/comment.
      I have not read the APL China accident investigation report but only some expert comments . If You have a link to this I would greatly appreciate Your help in getting it.

      APL China was the first accident ,when the issue of parametric rolling has been recognised as affecting the ships of certain length and hull shape. It does not of course mean it was not known . It was, but ships were smaller then and the only worry was rezonanse rolling which was much less veiled in mystery then parametric. As some sources accurately describe the precondition for parametric roll to occur is the wave length , which must be comparable with ships LOA. Lets say in 0.8-1.2 range , some indicate wave height is also a factor but to a bit lesser degree.

      Hence using a simplified formulas and non scientific calculator and also with some hands on sea experience, one can find we are talking about wave lengths 250 mtrs or longer. I my be wrong but have never seen or experienced wind generated waves of such siginficant length. That leaves us with swell and tsunami . Eliminating tsunami due to it,s scarcity ( and such was not reported) it leaves us with swell or not related to parametric roll single event leading to for example to M/E shutdown. ( APL China) or rouge wave or may be a series of them.

      One does not need to experience N.Pacific or North Atlantic, although these are the regions, where lot of ships having LOA 250 mtr and greater dwell . Have read a report saying, that for the first time in history of measurements, hurricane Katrina generated regular waves of 90 ft- abt 30 mtr high and that, can scare even the bravest master mariner .

      Following Your great tip about the weather, allow me for a quote here:


      Would You not agree Sir, with it’s rather obvious and convincing wisdom????

      And that brings both of Us to the most fundamental issue which You were so kind to mention.
      The master had the chance to choose: to go or not to go.

      I can not believe and I am passionate about this , that present day masters, who are top bananas (actors) in one of the most spectacular events in the history of maritime transportation are not aware and/or do not have sufficient knowledge and hands on experience in navigation , ship handling , meteorology , stability and a truck load of other issues relating to this job/function.

      One look at the minimum STCW requirement for master FG unlimited or >>>3000 GRT leaves no doubt , that this minimum is sufficient for an average Joe ( master) to avoid extreme weather and it’s effects -having at his disposal tools and access to information I could only dream about in the 90’s.

      In conclusion .
      Without reference to Hill Harmony ruling , which imposes sort of straitjacket on SOME managers, who subsequently instruct masters to follow strictly routing service advise ( i was the recipient in 2007 on time chartered cont vsl) ) , one may consider to ask the following question:

      What has changed since abt 1970 , that has morphed into sort of mechanism/phenomenon , that
      generates such a debilitating effect on the average Joe( master) having a minimum as required by STCW skills ??????

      Can I suggest the following research:
      P&I Gard article “Safety culture – Managing conflicting goals in shipping operation”
      From Titanic to Costa Concordia—a century of lessons not learned by Jens-Uwe Schröder-Hinrichs & Erik Hollnagel & Michael Baldauf
      Article/text – Improving Safety and Organisational Performance Through A Just Culture
      QUOTE on types of ship’s management cultures:
      Level 2: Reactive
      • Safety is taken seriously every time there is an accident
      • Managers try to force compliance with rules and procedures
      • Many discussions are held to re-classify incidents
      Level 1: Pathological ( 50% of my own experience)
      • We leave it to the lawyers or regulators to decide what’s OK
      • There are bound to be accidents – this is a dangerous business
      • If someone is stupid enough to have an accident, sack them

      P& I Gard news : Ship safety and high reliability organisations
      In general, companies can be divided into four cultural categories, in which different cultural signs dominate. The four categories range from the least committed: “Laissez-faire”, to the most committed: “High reliability”. These four cultural categories are described below.

      ………………………Cover-up culture ( 50% of my own experience)
      Self-interest dominates over company interest. For example, managers’ priority is to maintain their own power, to avoid conflict
      and play down problems. If you fail or criticise, you are seen as a threat to the power and the harmony of the working climate.
      As a result, people are afraid of failing, reluctant to speak up, have a rigid focus on responsibilities and focus mostly on overall results such as budgets and TIME OF ARRIVAL
      There is little co-operation between departments. Hence, company interests ,that are dependent upon several departments
      such as planning of off-hire, delivery of spares, communication with crew, cargo troubleshooting, etc., are given lower priority

      Have You or other viewers/participants ever seen currently employed master ” sworn in affidavit” describing , what methods are used by above mentioned cultures ???

      Then let me tell You from my own experience:
      These methods remind me of the methods used and practised by the most vicious and unscrupulous totalitarian regimes, that existed in the history of mankind:
      those masters who challenge the existing environment, who have critical minds, who have the guts and courage to confront the so called office managers, who apply strictly ISM and SMS as per industry guidelines and advise and mentoring of Gurus lika DProf FNI Capt Phil Anderson, who understand the precedence of safety of the crew ,ship and cargo over commercial interests, who issue non-conformity notes to Office, who write critical/negative master reports/reviews, not only exposing office crew incompetence and/or lack of diligence,slack and never mind socialist attitudes but merely hinting it , those masters are eliminated from the circulation by a simple method of denial of future re-employment. But these same cultures do not stop at this. They tip off crewing agents in the country of master’s domicile, using terms like ” difficult to cooperate” , toxic style of command, trouble maker, unacceptable style of correspondence, disturbing the office working harmony and/or similar attributes, what results in effective and air-tight black listing despite explicit MLC rules forbidding such practices.

      Using such methods , in 40 or so years of continuous pressure and intimidation and outright blackmail , they have succeeded in creating a new BREED of silent accommodating herd of obedient lambs, malleable, unresisting servants and fetch dogs ,trained to worship their masters/superiors and compete with each other in the ollimpic games of obeisance.

      Forgive me for lengthy outburst but I have not trained myself yet in Tweeter style debate utilising only 140 characters. Then I hope readers will tolerate and Editors will accept two more quotes:

      1. Men, in order to do evil, must first believe, that what they are doing is good. A.Solzhenitsyn
      2. ” Subordinate appearing before his superior should look miserable, stupid and idiotic in order not to embarrass, disconcert and unsettle his superior with subordinate apprehensive faculties and/or wits and/or way of thinking “- Ukaz Carski ( Tzar’s edict)

      for the sake of brevity and not to cause to much irritation and outrage, I will skip , what is contained in the 48 RULES OF POWER- rule no.1

      Is it not thought provoking??


  17. Why blaming the weather again? Because it is now an insurance issue while avoiding bad weather or designing for it, is at the cost of the owner? Weather forecasts have never been more accurate, we know about parametric rolling, and everybody who played with Lego knows that you can not upscale your design endlessly.
    As naval arch, I have been involved in dry-tows of offshore equipment. Arriving safely always prevailed over the schedule. In this industry, but also the Cruising sector, everything is driven by the schedule.
    Perhaps the P&I clubs should look into this.
    If I wrecked my car because I took a bad road as a shortcut only because I am in a hurry, I would be a difficult defence to my insurance company.

  18. Well done Sam for a good article and well done all who contributed to an interesting discussion.

    In the early 1980s I was working for the P&I Club that handled the loss of 120 containers from OCL’s “Falmouth Bay”, all 1,200 TEU of her, on charter to MOSK, on the trans-Pacific route, in the early hours of 22nd March 1984. She was being routed by OceanRoutes who described the weather they routed her into as “an explosive developing low”. As I investigated I came to the conclusion that as a weather reporting ship and the only one in her patch of ocean at the material time she was being given her own reports back, anonymised, with a significant delay. She would have done better using her data as a single observer forecast; her Master had correctly forecast the weather she hit and had wanted to take a different route. But Technology was Wonderful.

    This wasn’t parametric rolling; this was the ship being boarded by solid water that came twelve rungs up the foremast, when hove to in the dodging position.

    How much has changed in the past 36 years?

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