Mazda takes a bath in MOL vessel accident
The auto transport ship that rolled over in rough seas south of the Aleutian Islands this week, was carrying a load of Mazda vehicles, an official for the Japanese car maker said.
The 'Cougar Ace' has 4,813 automobiles on board, but Mazda North American Operations spokesman Jeremy Barnes said he did not know if all the vehicles belonged to Mazda or whether the vessel was also providing service for other customers.
The 55,000-gross-ton vessel, operated by Japanese line Mitsui O.S.K. (MOL), was bound for Vancouver, British Columbia, from Tokyo when it sent out a distress call Sunday night from its position in the North Pacific. Barnes said the vessel was also scheduled to discharge Mazdas at the Port of Tacoma in Washington and Port Hueneme, located an hour north of Los Angeles.
Barnes refused to speculate on whether the incident would constrain supply for dealers on the West Coast or if the cars are recoverable. Some popular models are already in short supply and if they were shipped on the 'Cougar Ace,' 'we will do all we can to increase production and bring vehicles over as soon as possible,' he said.
Mazda has three plants in the United States at which it builds the Mazda 6, Tribute and B series pickup. It imports the rest of its lineup from Japan.
The 'Cougar Ace' appears to be stable and is not sinking, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It is listing 60 degrees to the port side, an improvement from earlier reports of an 80 or 90 degree list. On Tuesday, Coast Guard and Alaska Air National Guard helicopters hoisted the 23-man crew to safety. The crew is resting in Anchorage and is in good condition, save for one man with a broken leg.
MOL has contracted with a salvage company to right the ship and tow it to a port for repairs. The salvage company is expected to reach the distressed ship within a week, the agency said.
The cause of accident is under investigation. The Associated Press reported that the ship captain told a nurse practitioner on Adak Island, where the crew was initially flown, that the 'Cougar Ace' began tilting sharply after it was hit by a large wave while the ballast was being adjusted. The medical technician said rescuers told him the adjustment was made to conform to U.S. codes as the ship prepared to leave international waters.
Federal regulations require vessel operators to flush out their ballast tanks before entering U.S. waters to prevent the introduction of non-native aquatic pests.