Container shipping experts have said that there are similarities to the massive losses suffered by the ONE Apus and the MSC Zoe accident, as container losses from large ships rack up.
Dutch Safety Board member Lianne van der Veen, who described the MSC Zoe accident to Container News readers during the third Cargo Integrity Campaign online Seminar in October, had said that the Dutch investigation into that incident in January 2019 had been caused by the high stability of the vessel causing it to rapidly right itself as it rolled, increasing the forces on the container stack.
According to van der Veen’s seminar presentation, “the length and optimal GM [essentially vessel’s centre of gravity] of ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) exceed the valid ranges of most international technical regulations and standards for the calculation of accelerations.”
Effectively the greater stability of modern vessels, because they are wider, means that they attempt to right themselves when they roll, with the acceleration of the rolling motion of the ship the forces on the container stack can become irresistible. As was established by van der Leen’s team when investigating the loss of 342 containers from the MSC Zoe.
A container accident consultant, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained to Container News, that in the past most experienced captains could look at the cargo securing manual and the tables in that book that take into account beam and GM to see if the GM is too high, “they can make an educated guess, as many of us can with calculations, to see if they are in the right range”.
However, with the ULCV’s the calculations are too complex and must be completed by an onboard computer, “but those calculations are too complex to make an educated guess,” explained the consultant.
In his appraisal of the ONE Apus accident the consultant said that while he had no idea of the wind direction, wave direction or other pertinent factors he could see from the photographs that containers had fallen from the ONE Apus from both the starboard and port sides, “this would suggest accelerations from a rolling motion.”
Even though this conclusion cannot be considered decisive, the similarities may be hard to ignore. In addition, as the forces on the container stacks increase so the forces on the lashing gear also increase and in many cases exceed the designed load limits, adding to the causes for the loss of containers.
An increase in the load forces container stacks is a direct result of the doubling in size of container ships over the last 15 years, according to the consultant, which has seen vessels become much wider and with container stacks on deck increasing in height. This is thought to play a role in the spate of container losses from vessels over the last few years.
Apart from the MSC Zoe and ONE Apus, a second vessel ONE Aquila, operating in the same service as Apus, lost cargo a month before the Apus. In addition, the smaller, 8,500TEU Seroja Lima, a Maersk vessel operating on the Atlantic lost containers in a storm last month too.
According to the Dutch Safety Board, recommendations to revise the technical and legal regulations for container ships, regarding the design limits of cargo securing equipment and the approved loading and stability conditions were due to be debated at the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 102, the International Maritime Organization’s committee on safety, but all agenda items were postponed and will be revisited at MSC 103 in 2021.
Insurance experts considered commenting on the ONE Apus accident to be “premature”, but one manager offered the following view, “Initial reports would certainly indicate a dramatic failure of the deck stow. Thinking back to a range of topics covered in the webinar we ran earlier this year, some initial reports talk of a ‘weather bomb’ (rapidly developing low pressure), which may not have been discernible for weather routing. Regardless of how unexpected the conditions, investigators will no doubt focus on the lashing system used (fully automatic locks or semi-automatic twistlocks) as well as lashing calculations and load plan.”