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Dutch commence criminal investigation into MSC ZOE box losses

The Dutch infrastructure and water management authority (Rijkswaterstaat), part of the Transport Ministry, has begun a criminal investigation into the sizeable container loss from MSC ZOE

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Dutch commence criminal investigation into MSC ZOE box losses

The 19,224TEU ship lost an estimated 270 containers in the North Sea on Tuesday night, 2nd January.


Rijkswaterstaat has told worldcargonews online that it suspects that the ship had been losing containers prior to the alleged main loss location north of the German Wadden Island of Borkum, although the exact number of such containers has not yet been assessed. Rijkswaterstaat has based its assumption on the location of the 70-80 containers that have been traced in Dutch waters so far.


As of yesterday (Friday, 4th January), 16.01h CET, between 40 and 50 sunken containers had been located by sonar in the main deep sea shipping lane north of the Dutch Wadden islands of Vlieland and Ameland.


Vlieland is 70 nautical miles south west of Borkum, where the incident was reported to have occurred. This might seem a fair distance for floating containers in very strong north-east winds – that may still be floating or eventually sank and are thus spread over a wide area on the seabed - but not for ones that that sunk directly after having gone overboard.


The shipping lane involved, in the eastern part of the North Sea, leads to all German seaports and Denmark.


The 70 to 80 containers located so far, include 20 to 30 boxes that beached on the Dutch islands or were towed inshore. None of the three Dutch authorities involved could provide precise figures as of 16.01h CET yesterday.


At the time of writing, the German Command for Maritime Emergencies (Havariekommando) has not provided worldcargonews online with the number of containers that it has located by airborne and waterborne sonar so far. It did note, however, that containers that sunk in the shallow waters off the Wadden islands are hard to rescue, considering the lifting capacity of shallow draught salvage craft and the mass of containers filled with water.

All photos from the Dutch Coastguard (Nederlandse Kustwacht)
All photos from the Dutch Coastguard (Nederlandse Kustwacht)

MSC released a statement from Geneva yesterday stating that it is taking over more of the clean-up of German and Dutch waters and beaches and that it is working with a number of salvage companies to add momentum to the quick response started by the authorities on 2nd January.


“In some locations, MSC is taking over contracts initiated by local authorities. This operation is being coordinated through a single specialised response company, appointed by MSC and its insurers, in order to centralise and monitor the cleaning work. Specialist equipment is being used to accelerate the clean-up process. For example, fast boats for picking up and towing drifting containers and sonar-tracing vessels for underwater recovery. These boats use a hydraulic, remote-operated grab function to pick up the boxes."


The shipping company did not respond to our enquiries concerning the number of search and/or salvage craft that is has contracted or the names of the maritime service companies involved.


In a new statement issued today (5th January), the carrier said: "We would like to reassure authorities and members of the public in the Netherlands and Germany that the company will pay the full costs of the clean-up of the 2nd January MSC ZOE container spill.


"MSC is committed to continue searching the sea for the containers which fell overboard, until the last one is found. MSC will also ensure that the beaches of the Dutch and German coastlines are surveyed until all debris related to this incident has been cleared.


MSC confirms the appointment of Ardent Global to coordinate the search at sea in both countries, in full collaboration with relevant authorities.


Ardent is well known across the world for its expertise in marine salvage and emergency response and, together with MSC, will strive to minimise the impact on the environment and safety of navigation from this accident.


"Other specialist response companies already appointed by MSC continue to work with authorities and members of the public on beach cleaning, as previously communicated."

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