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North Sea search for hundreds of MSC ZOE lost boxes

Dutch and German coastguard services are busy with the aftermath of a serious incident with MSC ZOE to mitigate the risk of ships colliding with floating or sunk containers. Meanwhile, Hapag-Lloyd has reported a fire on YANTIAN EXPRESS

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North Sea search for hundreds of MSC ZOE lost boxes

The 19, 224 TEU ship lost an estimated 270 containers off the German Wadden Island of Borkum, in the North Sea, on Tuesday night, 2nd January, apparently as it was abeam in 8-9 Bft winds and 5m waves as it sailed towards Bremerhaven.


The main focus is locating more than 200 containers yet to be found. Tens of containers have beached on various Dutch Wadden islands, while others that are afloat are being picked up by local salvage operators.

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

A fleet of German and Dutch coastguard craft and airplanes, many equipped with sonar, have been searching for containers both afloat and sunken, since Wednesday morning, 3rd January. There is special attention for three containers carrying hazardous organic peroxide, as some loose bags seem to have already beached.


The operation is led by the Dutch Coastguard, based in the Navy main port of Den Helder, and the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME, or Havariekommando), based in Cuxhaven.

Three of the lost containers were shipments of hazardous cargoes
Three of the lost containers were shipments of hazardous cargoes

MSC is busy assessing which containers have gone overboard – and thus how many – as the ship is berthed at the North Sea Terminal Bemerhaven (NTB).


Beachcombers had a field day on Wednesday on the Dutch islands of Vlieland, Terschelling, Schiermonnikoog and Ameland and even on parts of the mainland, with washed up goods including shoes and sandals and various electrical goods.


Authorities are more concerned about the tens of kilometres of beaches – spread over the various islands – that are littered with plastic and styrofoam packing material and other worthless debris, sometimes as far as the eye will reach.


The Dutch military has cancelled holiday leave for 100 soldiers and dispatched them and their equipment to help clean the beaches. Styrofoam and other debris is being swept inshore by the strong winds.


Dutch ferry company Doeksen is offering ticket rebates for volunteers helping to clear the beaches.


Separately, Hapag-Lloyd has reported from its global HQ in Hamburg that on 3rd January a fire broke out in one container on the deck of YANTIAN EXPRESS and spread to additional containers. The crew of eight officers and 15 seafarers is unharmed. "Efforts to extinguish the fire in the containers were launched immediately, but have had to be suspended for the time being due to a significant deterioration of weather conditions."

The 7,510 TEU vessel, which is 320m long and sails under German flag in the East Coast Loop 5 (EC5) service, was built in 2002 and was on its way from Colombo to Halifax via the Suez Canal, added Hapag-Lloyd. "At present, the ship is approximately 650 nautical miles off the coast of Canada.


"It is still too early to make a precise estimate of any damage to the vessel or its cargo. Hapag-Lloyd is closely cooperating with all relevant authorities."

A number of containers from MSC ZOE have washed up on Dutch beaches
A number of containers from MSC ZOE have washed up on Dutch beaches
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