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Baltimore disaster sees CMA CGM declares force majeure

There were no container vessels at Baltimore Port last Tuesday March 26th when container ship Dali crashed into and caused the collapse of the Baltimore Key Bridge, but CMA CGM has said that that the terminal stopped receiving exports as of 11:00 local time on March 26th, prompting the carrier to issue a notice of force majeure to customers.

CMA CGM is informing customers of contingency plans under the terms and conditions of its bill of lading. Exports on the terminal they are saying will stay there until the port reopens; boxes destined for the port can be re-routed at the shipper’s expense.

CMA CGM said that it was recommending Norfolk, Virginia wherever possible, or alternately New York. Boxes on the water will be discharged at an alternate port, where CMA CGM’s bill of lading will terminate and they will be made available for pick-up.

Other major carriers are issuing similar advice to their customers. MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company’s customer alert warns that service “will not be reestablished for several weeks if not months.” MSC is taking similar actions to CMA CGM, reporting that cargo from Europe will be diverted to New York. Ships from Asia are also mostly diverting cargo to New York or Norfolk, although in one case the cargo will be going to Philadelphia.

Maersk told customers that it was “working diligently to identify solutions and will inform you as soon as possible of changes to current and future cargo to Baltimore.”

Both Maersk and MSC acknowledged that they had customers’ shipments aboard the Dali, which is likely to remain caught for weeks or longer.

Dali operator Synergy Marine reported that there were 4,679 teu aboard the vessel (which had a capacity of just under 10,000 teu). Pictures show the ship heavily laden, which presumably means that the other 5,000 or so teus are empty, being taken back to Asia to be refilled for export.

WK Webster has warned that “the prospect of General Average being declared may now be more likely given the apparent significant costs that will need to be incurred to extricate the vessel from its current position and bring it to a place of safety before considering on-carrying cargoes to their intended destinations. It is also possible that salvage services required by the vessel may be rendered on LOF (Lloyd’s Open Form, formally “Lloyd’s Standard Form of Salvage Agreement”) or similar terms. In the event of either a declaration of General Average and/or LOF Salvage, securities will need to be provided for all cargo on board.”

An analysis of the bill of ladings by Bloomberg indicated that the vessel had discharged about 7,000 tons of goods in Baltimore.