Casualty Newsletter January 2021

Maersk containership loses 750 containers in Pacific
The containership Maersk Essen has diverted to Mexico after losing about 750 40-foot containers in the Pacific Ocean.

The 13,100-TEU vessel was sailing from Xiamen, China to Los Angeles when it encountered heavy weather on Jan. 16, A.P. Moller-Maersk said. An unknown number of containers were damaged in addition to those lost overboard. No crew aboard the Denmark-flagged ship were injured.

The ship was sailing about 520 miles north of Hawaii at the time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. Coast Guard also was made aware of the incident, Maersk said.

The 1,205-foot Maersk Essen diverted to Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico to offload the damaged containers and possibly undergo repairs. It is slated to arrive in port on Saturday, Jan. 30, Maersk said in a prepared statement. It’s not clear if the ship was damaged.

The incident was the latest in a series of major container losses in the Pacific in recent months. The 14,000-TEU ONE Apus lost about 1,800 containers after sailing into a powerful storm in late November while en route from Yantian, China to Long Beach, Calif.

Photos of the ship after it diverted to Kobe, Japan showed row after row of collapsed containers. A handful of damaged containers also hung partially over the sides of the vessel.

After unloading its damaged containers in Mexico, Maersk Essen will continue to Los Angeles as planned with its undamaged cargo. The ship’s arrival could be delayed by up to two weeks by a lengthy backlog at the port.


Tugboat docked on Massachusetts river catches fire
Authorities in Fall River, Mass., are investigating a fire on the unmanned tugboat Navigator while it was docked overnight on Dec. 28.

A witness reported the tugboat on fire at about 0415. The flames reportedly started on the towline on the aft deck between the stacks. The fire spread before it was extinguished at about 0500, according to Fall River Fire Inspector Paul Cote.

“(Firefighters) were on the main deck but they (also were) inside the vessel. It is like being in an oven,” Cote said.

Navigator was one of two unmanned tugs docked at a marine facility along the Taunton River. The other vessel, which Cote did not identify, was not damaged. Navigator’s owner also was not identified.

Both vessels were in the process of being upgraded in hopes of passing a Coast Guard inspection, Cote said. After the fire, he said Navigator was still seaworthy despite the interior fire damage.


Barge strike disables Louisiana rail bridge
A railroad bridge over Rigolets Pass near Slidell, La., was damaged after a barge struck the span on Jan. 13.

The incident happened at about 0100. An empty barge pushed by the towboat Robert Cenac hit the CSX Rigolets Pass swing bridge, which was then stuck in the open position. The bridge returned to limited service later that day, CSX said.

The tow was en route to Port Burnsville, Miss., when the starboard side of the barge struck the bridge, the Coast Guard said. The cause of the incident remains under investigation and additional details were not available.


Casualty flashback: January 1920
The 389-foot tanker Mielero broke apart and sank in a storm in January 1920 while sailing from Matanzas, Cuba for Philadelphia with a load of molasses. Two lifeboats were launched and crewmembers aboard one were rescued, but the other boat was never heard from again.

Twenty-two people in the missing lifeboat died. The captain’s wife and two children were among those who perished.

The U.S.-flagged Mielero loaded 1.6 million gallons of molasses into its holds before departing Cuba on Jan. 23. The tanker developed a list early on Jan. 26 in a strong gale that put the ship in jeopardy well off the Georgia coast. Capt. Harold Simmons gave the abandon-ship order, and the 36 crew and the captain’s family split into the lifeboats.

The boats separated, then reunited, then separated again over several days. The craft led by the chief engineer ultimately was spotted by the steamer Ozette on Jan. 29. At that point, the lifeboat was almost 150 nautical miles east of Savannah, Ga.

After learning of the rescue, the U.S. Navy dispatched ships to search for crew aboard the second lifeboat led by Simmons. They returned to port on Feb. 2 without finding the vessel or any of the people on board. A day later, the rescued crew landed in Baltimore.

By Professional Mariner Staff