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CMA CGM Vessel Loses 44 Containers Overboard in South African Storms

CMA CGM containership
CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin set records at the U.S. West Coast ports when New (Port of Los Angeles)

Published Jul 11, 2024 12:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Heavy seas and strong winds are continuing to batter shipping along the South African coast and the massive containerships on route to sail the Cape of Good Hope due to Red Sea diversions. CMA CGM is reporting that one of its vessels, CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin (185,000 dwt) has become the latest casualty of the bad weather.

“On Tuesday, July 9, 2024, while proceeding on her westbound voyage from Asia to Europe, the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin faced unexpectedly strong adverse weather conditions off South African coasts and suffered loss at sea of 44 containers. Furthermore, 30 containers are reported damaged on the vessel.”

The latest AIS signals from the vessel show that she was sailing along the East Cape south of Durban and north of East London. Weather forecasters had warned that the strong seas that had been experienced along the West Cape region near Cape Town were expected to build and travel east. Warnings of strong waves were issued for the region around Durban. 

Reports coming from the ports and maritime authorities put the wind gusts as high as 35 to 50 knots. Waves had ranged between 12 and 20 feet in the different reports. LSE Shipping Research issued an update yesterday saying that tracking showed “no containerships passing the Cape of Good Hope,” while warning that yet another storm was expected to hit the region in the latter part of this week. The earlier storms had reportedly left as many as 4,000 people homeless in the Cape Town area due to high winds and flooding.

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin was built a decade ago and when it entered service in 2015 with a capacity of nearly 18,000 TEU it set new records are the largest vessel calling at the U.S. West Coast ports. Tracking data shows the vessel departed Singapore on June 26  with CMA CGM’s schedule reporting the vessel due on August 2 in Le Harve, France sailing on a route to Hamburg, Gdansk, and Rotterdam.

The company reports the containership is now proceeding to Cape Town for a thorough inspection. They are saying that the ship remains seaworthy with no strong damage, no injuries to the crew, and no pollution (other than the 44 boxes that went overboard). 

“It is assessed that all containers lost at sea contained harmless goods and do not contain any dangerous cargo,” CMA CGM reports in its statement.

The loss comes as the IMO tightened the regulations relating to the loss of containers. While the industry asserts losses are at record low levels, the new rules place a greater emphasis on reporting and a centralized effort to record losses.