Updated: “Ocean of Shoes” Cleaned Up as Mayview Maersk Resumes Sailing

Mayview Maersk
Gdansk port webcam picture of the Mayview Maersk during the recovery operation (Gdansk)

Published Dec 29, 2023 3:08 PM by The Maritime Executive


(Story was updated on December 30 with comments from Maersk on the loss and clean up operation.)

The initial recovery efforts after one of Maersk’s largest containerships lost more than 40 boxes in the North Sea have taken a week. One of the volunteers overseeing the cleanup efforts described the situation to the media as an “ocean of shoes,” but Danish officials have said Maersk provided a “robust” plan for the cleanup.

The company has acknowledged the loss of 46 boxes from the Mayview Maersk (213,970 dwt with a capacity of 18,270 TEU) on the night of December 21-22 after the vessel departed Hamburg in a fierce North Sea storm known as Pia. The ship proceeded to Gdansk, Poland where she has been for a week, with local reports saying she is expected to depart over the weekend. Maersk reports her next port will be Bremerhaven, Germany where she is expected to arrive on January 4.

Maersk now also reports that 107 containers aboard the vessel were damaged during the incident. Online postings from Gdansk talked about the vessel arriving with boxes dangling over the side. The webcam for Gdansk harbor appeared to capture pictures of the ship with damaged boxes protruding overboard.

Claims consultant WK Webster confirms in its casualty report that there were an unspecified number of damaged boxes in addition to a total of 46 that have gone overboard. 

“Loss and damage to containers appears to be limited to those containers stowed to Bay 74,” writes WK Webster. “We understand that normal discharge operations are expected to be completed by midday on December 28 whereafter it is the shipowners' intention to discharge damaged containers from Bay 74.”


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The Danish maritime authorities continue to issue warnings about missing containers in the North Sea. The Danish media reports that planes and drones have been used to search the North Sea but that the location of possibly drifting containers or debris has not been identified.

Initial reports said that four of the containers washed ashore along miles of the North Jutland coast along the North Sea. By Thursday, the authorities were reporting that the debris had been collected from the beaches, but more items may still wash ashore. At least 10,000 pairs of shoes were recovered along with refrigerators, televisions, and syringes. The containers were believed to be holding consumer goods with Denmark’s Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke stating they had received assurances that there was no hazardous material in the containers.

The minister said in addition to a robust plan, Maersk had hired a cleanup company and was on standby should additional debris be located in the North Sea or wash ashore. Maersk is paying for the cleanup and said it will be compensating the volunteers who helped to clean Denmark’s beaches.

Maersk told The Maritime Executive on December 30 that it has engaged a company with expertise in salvage operations and locating lost containers. "A vessel searching for potential floating containers arrived in the area on December 25," reports Maersk, "and two vessels with scanning capabilities are expected to arrive on January 2 to search for containers on the seabed to inform subsequent salvage operations."