Pilots Prevent Grounding After 20,000 TEU Boxship Loses Power

Boxship drifting with many tugs helping
Image courtesy UKMPA

Published Jan 31, 2023 6:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Marine pilots aboard the boxship MOL Treasure skillfully prevented a casualty when the vessel lost power Thursday on the approaches to the Port of Southampton, according to the UK Maritime Pilots Association. 

At about 1100 hours on Thursday, the MOL Treasure departed the pier at Port of Southamption, bound for Le Havre. Two pilots, Capt. Christopher Hoyle and Capt. Neil Dunn, guided the 20,000 TEU megaship as she made the transit outbound. Visibility was good and the water was calm, though the winds were gusty. 

Less than an hour into the voyage, the MOL Treasure's main engine experienced a substantial drop in power. It did not stop, but neither did it produce enough power to continue the voyage. The ship had an escort tug on hand already, and Southampton's VTS operator dispatched three more tugs to help. For the next 10 hours, pilots Hoyle and Dunn worked with the remaining power they had from the engine and the tugs on hand to keep the ship from drifting off and running aground in the tidal waters of the Solent. A third pilot, Capt. Richard Harding, joined the effort to give the team a rest.

Just before midnight, MOL Treasure was towed back to port, with the assistance of shoreside authorities and towing operators. No major effects on port operations, marine traffic or the environment were reported.

"Without the skills of the pilots working as a team with the port’s maritime management team . . . the outcome could have been vastly different – a major international waterway blocked to trade possibly for weeks, pollution to a major waterway, serious injury or loss of life and significant disruption to supply chains," said UKMPA in a statement. 

Port operator ABP Southampton confirmed that "port activity is continuing largely as normal" while an investigation into the cause of the loss of power continues.