MSC Loses Containers Overboard Near Port Elizabeth, South Africa

MSC container ship lost containers overboard in a storm off South Africa
(file photo)

Published Jul 16, 2020 7:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

An investigation is underway into the loss of containers that fell overboard from an MSC containership in the waters near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. There were also fears that the loss was creating a hazard to navigation into the port area. 

According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the 9411 TEU containership MSC Palak sailed out Port of Ngqura, near the city of Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape at noon on July 13, due to a storm with high winds in the area. The vessel anchored in the Algoa Bay region to ride out the weather which was causing swells running up to 3.5 meters in height.

While riding anchor in the bay, the vessel reported to local authorities at around midnight that it had lost a number of containers overboard in the storm.  They, however, reported that no dangerous cargo was lost overboard.

According to the statement from SAMSA, “An initial assessment was that six containers had fallen overboard and that they had sunk, however, at first light on the 15th, the vessel confirmed that 23 containers were lost overboard. A fishing vessel reported at 8:00 am on July 15, that they found containers drifting approximately seven nautical miles south of where the containers were lost.”

The Port of Ngqura was closed for vessel traffic due to the risk that some containers might have sunk in the approach channel, becoming a danger to navigation. SAMSA is working with the vessel owner to ensure that all containers are salvaged.

“An aerial surveillance flight was arranged by the owners to locate any drifting containers that may pose a hazard to shipping,” SAMSA reported.

This was the second incident attributed to the stormy weather in the region. The Liberian-flagged container ship JPO Libra had also been caught in the storm when the vessel’s anchor had become fouled preventing the ship from moving to a more secure position during the storm. In this instance, the vessel, however, was able to ride out the storm.

Despite high profile incidents such as these container lost overboard, the World Shipping Council recently released data saying that the incidents of containers lost overboard has been on the decline in the container industry.