MSC ZOE sustained strong lists as it encountered severe weather conditions when it lost 342 containers at the beginning of January
Crew members told the programme makers that the vessel was hit by very heavy, long period waves in Beaufort 8 winds from the north west as it turned eastward off the Dutch Wadden Island of Terschelling, heading for Bremerhaven. Andreas Latz, the Mission to Seamen’s pastor in Bremerhaven, stated that crew members he had spoken to had been in fear of their lives.
The maximum degree of listing is not known for sure, although Zembla cites the minutes of a German hearing on 18 February during which deputy director Schmidt of the German Command for Maritime Emergencies (Havariekommando) stated that the ship’s captain had confirmed two serious lists.
Contacted by the programme makers for the second broadcast, MSC stated that its ships are now sailing along the northern lane further offshore, which is deeper than the southern lane nearer the coast. The northern route, however, takes a few hours more for shipping to and from the English Channel. “We are doing this voluntarily, pending the investigation, although we consider the southern route to be safe”, MSC is quoted.
Contacted by WorldCargo News, a spokesman for MSC said that this quote is more or less correct, but said "the programme quoted selectively and some of the reporting was speculative and/or erroneous, as it was in episode one." At the time of writing, MSC has not provided us with a copy of the statement it gave the programme makers for the second programme, but following the first broadcast we were able to establish that the VDR was fully functional.
Dutch North Sea pilots interviewed by Zembla for the second programme believe that the Dutch Coastguard should proactively warn shipping about potential draught hazards along the southern route in severe weather conditions. The Dutch Coastguard stated on camera that it lacks the staff to provide such active shipping guidance. There is, however, a joint notice to shipping issued by the Dutch and German authorities in October 2017 advising ships exceeding 350m in length not to use the southern route.
Based on AIS data, Zembla stated that the 19,224 TEU ship had a 12.7m draught at the time of the incident. The relatively shallow southern route off the Wadden Islands is only 17m deep in some places, with one 16.4m outlier.
Following ship inspections carried out between 3 January and 16 January, Port State Control in Bremerhaven noted there was accidental damage to the hull.