The Hawaii-based shipping company, Young Brothers (YB), has confirmed that its container barge Ho Omaka Hou, towed by the company's 1991-built tug Hoku Loa, lost at least 21 boxes in Hilo Bay.
The cause of the accident remains unknown, and the US Coast Guard is still investigating the incident. However, both YB and US Coast Guard report no injuries.
The barge Ho Omaka Hou was sailing from Honolulu and was approaching Hilo Harbor, when the accident occurred.
The crew recognised the containers were missing after mooring in Hilo. "The tug operator reported that at 4:30am local time on 22 June, several 40ft shipping containers fell overboard," stated US Coast Guard.
From the 21 boxes that were confirmed lost, nine have been located, while the other 12 remain missing. Containers are reportedly adrift approximately eight miles north of Hilo, and one is reported adrift in Hilo Harbor, according to the US Coast Guard.
"We are actively working to remediate the situation in co-ordination with the US Coast Guard and other Federal and State agencies," stated YB, which is also working with a salvage team, which was secured at daybreak and they immediately began removal of any containers from Hilo Bay, according to sources.
Although YB said that "no hazardous materials were discharged into the ocean," watchstanders issued a broadcast notice to mariners to alert any traffic in the area to keep a sharp lookout for any containers that may pose a hazard to navigation.
"Our team members are working diligently and safely to discharge the cargo from the barge," Young Brothers added in its announcement.
Marine safety personnel were dispatched to the incident command post in Hilo, and an overflight took place, according to the US Coast Guard, while the State of Hawaii department of transportation - harbors division was also informed and assisted at the pier in Hilo.
At the time of the incident, 12 mph east winds were blowing, with 1.2m waves with a southern swell of 0.9 metres, and isolated showers.
Young Brothers confirmed that the sailing schedule between Honolulu and Hilo, as well as its other sailing routes, will continue normally and without interruption.