Another Boxship Loses Propulsion Near an Iconic East Coast Bridge

This time, escort tugs helped it safely divert to an anchorage

Tugs helped APL Qingdao slow down and divert to the west, to a safe anchorage (AIS trackline courtesy Pole Star)
Tugs helped APL Qingdao slow down and divert to the west, to a safe anchorage (AIS trackline courtesy Pole Star)

Published Apr 8, 2024 1:32 PM by The Maritime Executive


The container ship APL Qingdao experienced a temporary loss of propulsion as she approached the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge on Friday night, the U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed to ABC News. The cause and exact nature of the mechanical casualty have not been disclosed, but the incident is receiving extra scrutiny: the container ship Dali experienced loss of power and allided with Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge less than two weeks earlier, killing six and shutting down the port. 

AIS data from Pole Star shows that APL Qingdao departed the GCT New York terminal on Staten Island at about 1930 hours on Friday night. She was making about six knots as she exited the Kill Van Kull and rounded Staten Island's St. George Terminal, headed south for the Verrazzano Narrows. 

At about 2100, at a distance of about 3,000 meters from the bridge's center span, she slowed to four knots. Over the course of the next 15 minutes and 1,500 meters, she slowed to a near-stop, then diverted to a safe anchorage off Buono Beach. 

"The vessel regained propulsion and was assisted to safely anchor in Stapleton Anchorage, outside the navigable channel just north of the Verrazzano Bridge, by three towing vessels," the Coast Guard said in a statement. "These towing vessels were escorting the vessel as a routine safety measure, which is a common practice for large vessels departing their berth."

After the incident, the APL Qingdao was repaired and inspected to the Coast Guard's satisfaction. The vessel stayed at anchor for two days, then resumed her commercial voyage to Norfolk, where she is currently moored. 

APL Qingdao is a 10,000 TEU boxship operated by CMA CGM. She is approximately the same size and age as Dali, and both were built by the same South Korean shipyard. 

However, there were key differences between the two incidents. Unlike the Dali, APL Qingdao did not experience a total blackout, the Coast Guard said - only loss of propulsion. Dali also lacked escort tugs, which are not required at Port of Baltimore, and she was traveling approximately three knots faster when trouble began.  

The Verrazzano Narrows Bridge is also better protected against large vessels, according to its operator. It has large rock walls surrounding its piers, which are designed to fend off allisions. Baltimore's Key Bridge had little protection against full-size modern ships.