Clean-up begins following cargo losses from MSC Zoe

MSC Zoe was hit by heavy winds on 2 January causing cargo to be lost overboard and stoking fears of environmental damage. Credit: The Netherlands Coastguard.

Clean-up operations on the islands off the Dutch coast have started, following the loss of around 300 containers from the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s MSC Zoe, a 19,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (teu) mega-container ship.

The vessel was en route to Bremerhaven in Germany on January 2 and was being buffeted by a Force-10 gale when several container stacks collapsed, with many boxes falling into the sea. Tidal currents then carried the containers southwest; they have been washing up onto the shores of the Dutch islands of Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.

At least three containers carrying chemicals were reportedly lost, with part of a cargo of peroxide washing up onto the beach at Schiermonnikoog. Dutch and German coastguards are warning people to stay away from the containers. Other cargo such as furniture and toys has been seen on the islands’ beaches.

A Dutch coastguard spokesman told FreightWaves, “We have looked for containers in the sea using aircraft and ships, but it seems that they either sank or have washed up already.”

That at least means there should be a reduced risk to other vessels navigating the channels in the area.

The Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) is managing the clean-up operations on Dutch territory, but at press time FreightWaves had not received a response from Ministry’s office.

An MSC spokesman said that the vessel itself was undamaged and it was now docked in Bremerhaven. A further company statement said, “MSC appointed on 2 January a salvage company to coordinate the retrieval of cargo and beach clean-up operations and is also deploying specialised ships equipped with sonar to search for missing cargo at sea.”

However, the company would not, or could not, confirm how many containers were lost, or what was in those containers.

MSC is a member of the 2M alliance and its alliance partner, Maersk Line, has also voiced its concern about the cargo that has been lost and could be causing environmental damage.

A Maersk spokesman said, “We can confirm that Maersk containers are onboard the MSC Zoe… The vessel is alongside in the port of Bremerhaven now and a list of impacted units is being collected by the operator. We are concerned about this serious incident and its impact on the environment and our customers and will support our alliance partner where possible. We will inform impacted customers as soon as more information is available.”

MSC Zoe operates on the Asia/Europe trades on the 2M alliance’s Silk Service.

The company added, “MSC takes this incident very seriously, both in terms of the impact of such accidents on the natural environment and in terms of any damage to customers’ cargo.”

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.