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.