Thousands of guillemots have washed up on the Dutch coast since early January and this has been linked to the containers lost overboard by MSC ZOE
One biologist involved in researching the causes estimates the number of dead seabirds at 20,000. Having started in the Dutch Wadden Islands region - nearest the location where MSC ZOE lost containers - the beachings gradually spread out towards the Dutch coastline further south.
The Dutch agriculture and fisheries department has ordered autopsy investigations into the cause(s) of death. The investigation will be carried out by Wageningen Marine Research, Bioveterinary Research and the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre. Their findings are due early March.
Initial marine biologists’ reports state that it is not uncommon for guillemots to beach, dead or dying, after heavy weather, but add that the current numbers are exceptionally high. The survivors are being cared for in bird rescue centres.
Nobody involved in the investigation has so far expressed a certain link to the MSC ZOE container loss, but concern was expressed at the time that some of the containers contained peroxide. Those birds that have already been examined were found to be seriously underweight and had gastric problems.
Meanwhile, MSC has now stated that the ship lost a minimum of 345 containers off the German and Dutch coasts, rather than the previously estimated 291.
The line informed the Dutch infrastructure and water management authority (Rijkswaterstaat) of the revised figure on the basis of the discharging proceedings in Gdansk.
MSC added that the final figures are due next week, so the number might still change. It added that the number of lost containers carrying dangerous goods still stands at just three.
The 19,224 TEU ship encountered a delay in unloading the rest of its containers in Gdansk, its port of call after Bremerhaven. The ship unloaded the first estimated half of its cargo in Bremerhaven, directly after the calamity on the North Sea during its approach to the German port and the 291 figure was estimated after it sailed from there. In Gdansk, the ship is believed to have unloaded all containers that were on board after its departure from Sines in Portugal, the last port of call before the incident.