Cargo customers on Maersk Shanghai face anxious wait

Customers with cargo aboard containership Maersk Shanghai will have to wait to find out when they will receive their shipments after some 76 containers loaded aboard the vessel either fell overboard or collapsed during the nor’easter storm that hit the US East Coast in early March.

Following inspections off Charleston, South Carolina, Maersk Shanghai passed on its scheduled port calls at Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, sailing instead to Freeport, Bahamas, where imported containers were due to be discharged and salvage of the collapsed containers was scheduled to take place. However on Friday March 9th Maersk Line said that there would be no containers discharged from the vessel prior to the start of salvage operations, which are scheduled to begin Wednesday March 14th at the earliest.

Maersk Shanghai was travelling from Norfolk, Virginia to Charleston, South Carolina when the crew reported between 70 to 73 containers had collapsed due to high winds and heavy seas off the coast of North Carolina. Some containers were lost overboard. The number of containers affected was later raised to “around 76”.

The vessel initially continued her journey to Charleston where she was anchored off the coast. However, Charleston port was of insufficient size to handle a discharging, so Maersk Shanghai moved to Freeport, Bahamas.

Maersk said last week that, once repairs were completed in the Bahamas, the vessel would transit to Miami, Florida to conduct full cargo operations, followed by Newark, New Jersey to load exports. However, at the moment the future seems less certain. Maersk said last Friday March 9th that “due to the complexity of these operations, we are not yet able to provide the expected duration. We remain committed to finding the best possible solution for all cargo on board the vessel and we will continue to keep you informed as the situation develops”.

Meanwhile, The Coast Guard has designated the floating containers that fell overboard and which have not yet sunk as hazards to navigation. Maersk Shanghai’s owners contracted a salvage company to place tracking devices and lights on the containers. The USCG continued to issue Safety Marine Information Broadcasts to inform boaters of the positions of the known containers.

The US Coast Guard, NOAA and Environmental Protection Agency were monitoring the tracking and assessment of stray cargo containers about 17 miles off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina. AP Moller-Maersk reported one of the containers lost was carrying about 5,900lb of sulfuric acid. Currently there are no indications any containers of sulfuric acid have surfaced or washed up on shore. No other hazardous materials were reported. Multiple overflights have located nine containers, of which only two were reported to remain afloat.

“Maersk has also developed a plan to use side-scan sonar to locate the submerged containers to determine their risk to safe navigation and environmental impact. Weather and sea conditions will determine how quickly they are able to effectively survey the area”, the USCG said, adding that “plans developed by Maersk to ensure safe navigation and minimize impact to the environment and marine life will be approved by the Coast Guard, NOAA and EPA prior to execution”.

Mariners were reminded to notify the USCG of container sightings at 910-362-4015 or on VHF-FM channel 16.

2016-built, Liberia-flagged, 110,632 gt Maersk Shanghai is owned by Stovep Marine SA care of manager Zodiac Maritime Ltd of London, UK. It is entered with North of England Club on behalf of Stovep Marine SA.