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Maersk Essen loses 750 containers, sails for Mexico

Berthing date of storm-battered vessel had been in question in congested San Pedro Bay

The Maersk Essen lost 750 containers overboard Saturday en route from China to Los Angeles. (Photo: Flickr/kees torn)

It’s happened again. Hundreds of containers carrying goods such as furniture, fitness equipment and electronics have fallen overboard from a California-bound ship.

This time it was the Maersk Essen en route from Xiamen, China, to the Port of Los Angeles last Saturday when, according to the ocean carrier, the container ship experienced a “rough sea encounter.”

The Danish-flagged Essen, with a capacity of 13,100 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), sails on Maersk’s TP6 Asia-U.S. West Coast service. The Essen “experienced heavy seas during her North Pacific crossing,” Maersk said, “resulting in the loss of approximately 750 containers overboard.”

“All crewmembers are safe and a detailed cargo assessment is ongoing while the vessel continues on her journey,” Maersk said in its brief media release issued Wednesday.

It had been unclear when the Maersk Essen would berth at the Port of LA. Some reports had it arriving as early as Friday, but San Pedro Bay is filled with container ships waiting to berth and port congestion apparently is worsening. The Los Angeles Times reported that 45 vessels were anchored outside the ports of LA and Long Beach on Tuesday. That’s up double digits from the 32 at anchor a week earlier. 

Maersk has now reported that the Essen has changed course and is sailing for the Port of Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico, with an estimated arrival date of Jan. 29 “for cargo survey, port operations and initial repair.”

Regardless where the Maersk Essen berths, it likely could be weeks before it is known what was inside the 750 containers that went overboard — as well as the dozens of others that could have been damaged on deck. FreightWaves, however, has visibility to what the Maersk Essen was carrying when it sailed from Xiamen.

According to FreightWaves’ SONAR data, the Essen was carrying more than 4,000 TEUs of furniture. Also on board were nearly 850 TEUs of footwear and some 170 TEUs of electronics. Other listed products included tires totaling 150 TEUs and 79 TEUs of kitchenware. Fitness equipment at 82 TEUs does not include 52 TEUs of “smart treadmill[s] with auto incline.” 

Henry Byers, FreightWaves’ maritime market expert, also identified U.S. importers that have utilized the TP6 Asia-U.S. service to the Port of Los Angeles so far in 2021.

“Since many U.S. importers with larger volumes utilize service contracts directly with Maersk and MSC, members of the 2M Alliance, by looking into the last three vessels that performed this service routing, FreightWaves has insight into which importers were most likely to have freight on board the Maersk Essen,” Byers said. “In examining the ocean bills of lading registered with U.S. Customs that arrived on the last three vessels — Maersk Esmeraldas, Maersk Edirne and the MSC Francesca — to call the Port of Los Angeles via the TP6 Asia-U.S. service, FreightWaves was able to determine that the largest volume named importers were Amazon, Ikea, Williams-Sonoma, Wolverine World Wide, Levi Strauss, Yokohama Tire and athletic-wear companies Adidas and Puma.”

On board these last three vessels were also many NVOCCs listed as providing ocean transportation via the Maersk Essen on behalf of various U.S. importers, Byers said. The NVOCCs handling the largest amount of volume on this service so far in 2021 include Topocean Consolidation Service, DHL Global Forwarding, De Well Container Shipping, Apex Maritime and DSV, according to the FreightWaves data. 

Byers also was able to provide insight into the massive container loss from the ONE Apus in late November.

In one of the single worst cases of container losses on record, the ONE Apus lost 1,816 TEUs overboard Nov. 30 en route from Yantian, China, to the Port of Long Beach. That incident also was blamed on stormy seas in the North Pacific. But the Apus did not continue its journey to the West Coast. Instead, it turned around and sailed for Kobe, Japan, where today offloading, inspections and an accident investigation continue. 

According to data provided by Byers, top importers using ONE as their ocean carrier into Long Beach who also use Maersk into LA include Kuehne + Nagel and C.H. Robinson.

ONE Apus container loss shows need for ‘real-time information’

Storm-beaten ONE Apus berths in Japan

Fireworks among dangerous goods lost from ONE Apus

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.


  1. Ronda Wilson

    I sure hope this shipping company from China will do the right thing and spend the time and money to recover these containers. That is pollution in the 1st degree. Step up and do the right thing.

  2. Marvin Sauer

    So are there 750 steel containers bobbing around in the ocean? I know they aren’t sealed up completely air tight, so suspect they might partly fill and hang low in water for some time?
    That will leave a mark if another ship hits one of them.
    On the bright side, a few thousand tons of Chinese crap that doesn’t make it to the USA!

    1. MrbigR504

      Yeah but that Chinese crap kept America going with PPE when we desperately needed it! And Amazon made a killing delivering that Chinese crap but they came through that’s for damn sure! Waaay too many folks don’t really know how much our economy is tied to China. When the Chinese New year, Trump’s tariff war and Covid-19 hit all at once, it was just a matter of time before the back stock dwindled down and the shelves got bare right? Thanks to Amazon delivering that so called Chinese crap, I was able to get toilet paper and PPE and other supplies because we (The US) damn sure didn’t have any to spare because the medical professionals and first responders needed it and #44 sh-t the bed with his response to the pandemic! I’m no fan of they way they operate over there but it seems to me that American businesses are always getting their stuff made over there instead of America where they live? Or made in India? The phrase for today is “Out Source” boys and girls! Number 44 had some good ideas (broke clock is right twice a day) as it pertained to getting the numbers right on these trade deals and so I hope the new administration doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water with these trade deals, but maybe adjust the numbers some so we don’t get bent over at the store shelves!

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.