MSC Zoe clean-up: 1,220 tons collected already

Significant progress has been made in the cleaning-up of debris from containers that fell from ULCV MSC Zoe (IMO 9703318) on January 2nd during heavy weather in the North Sea, Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) said on Wednesday January 9th. The company said that 1,220 metric tons had been collected so far from German and Dutch beaches impacted as a result of the 291-container spillage.

“By deploying 4×4 vehicles, tractors and specialist equipment such as a beach vacuum-cleaners the response operation has achieved significant progress on the Frisian islands of Terschelling, Vlieland, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, in the Wadden Sea and on the mainland,” the company said in its latest update on the situation. Ardent Global was coordinating the search at sea. Sonar-assisted search had located hundreds of objects in the water in the past few days which were being evaluated by MSC’s contractors and the authorities. So far, 21 entire containers had washed ashore.

The majority of the 238 containers located so far have been spread over a length of abut 40km above the Dutch municipalities of Terschelling, Schiermonnikoog, and east of this line.

Dutch public works and water management department Rijkswaterstaat is working with counterparties on salvage of the spilled containers. The salvage of the containers at sea remained dependent upon a number of conditions, including weather, tide, shipping traffic and visibility.

Two broken containers were salvaged on January 7th, but more than 40 were yet to be located.

The containers recently added to the overall total did not contain hazardous substances.

Bad weather was slowing all operations. Sonar operations scheduled for Thursday January 10th had to be suspended.

In response to a demand from Greenpeace that smart containers be introduced for hazardous materials, MSC said that it was “at the forefront of developments in the smart-containerisation of our industry and is increasingly offering smart container solutions to interested customers. However, to date, only a small proportion of the shipping industry’s global container fleet is equipped with real-time tracking devices. More research is needed to find a system that will work under a range of conditions both out of the water and in the water”.

Questions have been raised about the stowage procedures of the 23,000 teu containership. The lashing of rows seven, eight and nine, which formed the source of the containers that fell overboard, were coming under particular scrutiny.

A former managing director of salvage company Smit, Tak Klaas Reinigert, now a resident on the spill-affected island of Schiermonnikoog, said that the north-west force nine wind in the area should not have posed a problem for a 192,000 gt vessel. He suggested that the speed of the MSC Zoe when the incident occurred needed to be investigated, as well as the lashing of containers on top of the vessel. He noted that the containers fell from the midship, which struck him as curious.

Netherlands Coast Guard pictures showed that the containers which landed in the sea appeared unsecured by lashing rods. Niek Stam of the FNV trade union, said it was hard to secure containers in rows seven, eight and nine in such a fashion. He noted that vessels would be loaded according to an automated loading scheme, with only the top rows being loaded manually. As a rule, lashing was performed by workers well-trained in the task, but not in every port. MSC Zoe’s previous port of call prior to its arrival at Bremerhaven was Sines in Portugal.

2015-built, Panama-flagged, 192,237 gt MSC Zoe is owned by Xiangxing International Ship Lease Co Ltd care of Mediterranean Shipping Co SA of Geneva, Switzerland. ISM manager is Mediterranean Shipping Co of Naples, Italy. It is entered with West of England on behalf of Xiangxing International Ship Lease Co Ltd.