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MAIB: Crew's Comfort With Rough Weather May Have Caused Container Loss

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Rough North Sea weather in the Orkney Islands (Oliver Dixon / CC BY SA 2.0)

Published Apr 13, 2022 6:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

Container loss incidents have drawn increasing scrutiny from regulators because of the potential for pollution from containerized cargoes, particularly plastics. In a new report, the UK MAIB warned that crew complacency may have played a role in a container loss casualty off Scotland's Orkney Islands. 

On October 31, 2020, the Dutch feeder Francisca was under way off Duncansby Head in the UK North Sea, bound for the Netherlands. A heavy storm was passing through the region, and Francisca encountered high waves. 

While pitching into the swells, Francisca shipped water over the bulwarks, and containers on deck were hit by the seas. This caused a stack collapse, and 34 containers were lost over the side. All but one were empties, and only a small amount of cargo washed ashore. The ship and her crew were unharmed and were able to head for sheltered waters. 

According to MAIB's initial assessment, Francisca lost some speed and heading control when she hit each wave, exposing the deck cargo to green seas. This was enough to overload the lashings and topple the boxes. 

The agency suggested that the ship's crew may have become accustomed to the routine foul weather on the route between Iceland and the Netherlands, and they may not have appreciated the risk of the situation their ship was in. In addition, corrosion of the cargo lashing arrangements and the absence of a breakwater at the bow may have contributed to the loss, MAIB said. 

"Everything is well established and we have worked completely according to the rules," said Erik van der Wiel, director of ship manager VMS, speaking to RTV Noord after the casualty. "A storm caused high waves. As a result, water probably washed over the deck and the containers were knocked overboard. Fortunately, the crew was unharmed and the ship itself was not badly damaged. It is a bad situation, with a good outcome for the time being."

Top image: Storm at Row Head, Orkney (Oliver Dixon / CC BY SA 2.0)