Today we have a combination of a northwesterly storm, with gusts up to 100 km/ h along the coast, and a spring tide. In 1953 we had the same situation that then caused dykes to break flooding a large portion of the country with almost 2000 people killed.
As a result the Delta Works was developed and dykes were hightened and strengthened and river openings to the sea closed. The New Rotterdam Waterway at Hook of Holland can be closed with a huge tidal flood barrier.
Hook of Holland tidal flood barrier.
In Zeeland the Eastern Scheldt barrier. It has many sliding gates, which can be closed if necessary, for fish and other marine life to pass.
The Hollandse IJssel barrier at Krimpen aan den IJssel that was founded in 1277. It is the place where I live and is seen at the right. We are closed in by water, at the point where two big rivers meet, the IJssel and Lek.
It is expected that as a result of the storm the beaches, just cleaned, will be polluted again.
In the mean time the number of missing containers has risen to 291. There is a report that the loss of 250 containers was noticed for the first time by the crew four hours after the fact!
As soon as possible and weather permitting the search for containers with the help of side looking sonars will start and will be followed by a large scale salvage operation.
It was standard practice that shipping companies went to court to limit their liability. For instance APL immediately went to court after the incident with the APL China to limit its total liability to $50 million, the value of the ship.
The liability limit of a ship nowadays depends on the size of the ship. A certain number of units are allocated per tonne and are expressed in Special Drawing Rights. The first 2,000 tons of a ship is the most heavily loaded and for all subsequent tons an ever lower tax is charged. The Special Drawing Rights can be converted into an amount in euros and thus form the limit from which MSC could limit itself.
A container giant like the ‘MSC Zoe’, which is 396 meters long and 59 meters wide and can carry 19,224 teu, weighs 192,237 tons. That translates to 73,457,574 SDR, which translates to 89.5 million euros.
Therefore, even if MSC were relying on its liability limitation, the company would in any case have to pay that amount for the damage incurred. That contribution does not necessarily have to come out of pocket, because many ship owners are insured for such damage.
MSC has reassured the Dutch and German authorities shortly after the incident that the company would be responsible for all clean-up costs. Governments are often saddled with salvage costs because shipowners rely on their liability limitation. For example, the Netherlands paid the majority of the 67.5 million euros involved in the salvage of the car carrier ‘Baltic Ace’, that with its weight according to the current prices, only 17.6 million could be held liable after the shipowner renounced ship and invoked its liability
The former managing director of salvage company Smit, Tak Klaas Reinigert, now resident on Schiermonnikoog, one of the islands affected by spills of styrene and other particles, told The Loadstar that, while the north-west force nine wind in the area may have been a hazard for small coasters,it should not have been a problem for a vessel as large as the MSC Zoe.
The high winds may have been a factor but wave height and period would have more of a direct impact.
An animation of the route of the MSC Zoe is shown here. Pardon me for the irritating commercial at the beginning!
I stated earlier:
There is a report that the loss of 250 containers was noticed for the first time by the crew four hours after the fact!
That seem to be supported by the animation which shows that 200 containers were lost between 19.00 and 21.00 hours. The ship continues her voyage in the shallow water route as if nothing has happened. I suppose that it is difficult to detect the loss of the probably 250 containers with all the ship noise, noise of the storm wind and the total darkness. At 23.30 again 5 containers are lost and at 01.00 another 20. At last at 01.45 the ship turns into wind and sails towards the deep water route. A little further she goes round, probably for inspection. After continuing in a northerly direction at 07.00 hours the German Harbor authorities take over.
It beats me why she sailed with that draft in the shallow water route. I think that the captain has some explaining to do why he chose to sail on that shallow water route instead of the northern deep water route that would have taken the ship 90 kilometers from the the islands. Probably because it is a shorter route…
The Dutch Safety Investigation Board (OVV) is investigating the incident, though they don’t seem to be focusing on what would most likely be the main factors:
(google translate) from their website:
"The Dutch Safety Board is starting an investigation into overboard containers from the ship MSC Zoe. The Council focuses in particular on the consequences of the accident, the local situation in the Dutch Wadden Sea area and the sailing route of the ship.
Panama, under whose flag the ship sails, investigates the cause of the incident and the situation on board the ship. There is cooperation between the different councils."
A separate investigation has been started by the public prosecutor, so let’s hope that will prevent Panama from glossing over the real causes and just blaming the crew, rather than the (likely) underlying causes in the operating practices of the company and the way the cargo securing manual was approved by MCS’s RO of choice.
The Dutch Safety Investigation Board have a much broader scope, such as investigating the consequences for the environment of the accident. They are not looking for who is/are guilty for this disaster, in any case they donot have the necessary expertise for that.
An extremely busy traffic route very close, too close, to the Wadden (Wetlands or Mudflats)) Islands which forms together with the Wadden Sea an unique area that is on the Unesco Heritage list.
In the mean time the five mayors of the effected islands have written a letter to the Cabinet in which they demand a better control of ships and cargo that in great numbers are skimming the islands every day of the year. More accidents are bound to happen with this volume of traffic. One possibility is to close the shallow water route for ships up to a certain draft or close it all together so that all ships have to follow the safer deep water route.
Roughly measured in Google Earth the distance travelled from 21.45 hours till 01.00 hours is 67.5 nm. The average speed is then about 12.9 knots. I calculated the GM with the help of the USCG Weather Criterion roughly at GM = 1. T(roll) ≈ 35 sec.
Climbing on a container in rough weather is a risky business. If the guy has a survival suit on then it is not orange colored! The container was somewhat later brought ashore. Minus 1 and a couple of hundreds still to go.
Two Dutch salvage vessels will arrive this afternoon at the area were the containers were lost. One of these ships has special sonar equipment installed as well as remotely controlled underwater cameras. A third Norwegian salvage vessel lying in the harbor of Esbjerg, Denmark will join later in the day. They will start with a container that is obstructing the fairway. However, it remains to be seen whether they can really start today on account of the weather that is deteriorating at the moment. It is expected that the salvage operation will take a couple of months.
The MSC Zoe discharged 450 containers, of which hundreds were damaged, at the container terminal in Bremerhaven. In the mean time the ship left for Gdynia or Gdansk and is berthed there at the moment.
Unfortunately so far there is no news on the causes of the loss of so many containers. It remains a kind of mystery how this could happen. It was stormy with wave heights of about 6 - 7 meters at most but under these conditions and with the size of this ship one would not expect this to happen.
The Chicago Express which rolled 44° due to a rogue wave and came out unscathed.
Compare this to the accident with the Chicago Express which came unscathed, not one container was lost, out a roll of 44° where due to the enormous accelerative forces everyone present was catapulted across the bridge. The Officer on Watch was the only person on the bridge able to hold on to the chart table. The Lookout (AB) was killed and the master seriously injured.
Despite the heavy forces to which the CHICAGO EXPRESS was exposed because of the typhoon in rough seas, there was no notable damage on or in the vessel.
The accuracy of the inclinometer under these circumstances is somewhat questionable because of a transversal force of 1 g or more that was present, but nevertheless…
That Chicago Express incident report is interesting. I’d summarize the report by saying the ship could unexpectedly take a wicked bad roll in heavy weather more or less any time. Countermeasure is to install more handrails in the bridge.
The missing handrails was indeed a stupid omission.
I also found that it was a very interesting, well written report from which a number of lessons can be learned, some of which should be well known, such as:
Low roll damping due to low speed.
The expertise shows that the accident is the result of the swell transmitting energy into the vessel due to the direct swell moment. Since the vessel has very high stability, she absorbs a lot of energy; however, she is unable to disperse this rolling energy quickly enough because of the limited damping, meaning that extremely large roll angles occur when she is hit by about two or three big waves in succession. This is not a parametric excitation and there is also no resonance present.
However, due to the structural characteristics of large and very large container vessels these are particularly prone to absorbing high levels of swell moment because of their large bow flare. In that regard, it proves to be critical that there are no statutory, flag state, or – as far as one can see – class- related requirements for minimum roll damping. Rather, it is the case that, for example, the structural design of bilge keels, which serve as a proven structural means for influencing roll damping, has seen no significant changes in recent decades. This is astonishing when one considers that the length and breadth of some vessels has doubled in the intervening period.
Only then will it be possible to develop the state of technology based on these findings in a manner that wave and surface current monitoring systems will become genuinely effective on this basis and thus safety-enhancing shipboard prediction instruments with certainty in the future.
In theory, the accident could only have been avoided if the crew had sailed considerably faster or simply drifted the vessel abeam and both of these possibilities were impracticable. Ultimately, increasing the roll damping by partially filling ballast tanks would, theoretically, have had a positive impact on the course of the accident.
Recommends that nautical colleges, vessel operators and ship’s commands intensively address the issue of hazards on the bridge of large container vessels in heavy swell.
The Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation recommends that Voyage Data Recorder manufacturers comprehensively address the recurring technical problems of the assembled units. The one on board the Chicago Express had a troublesome history with a faulty hard drive. Testing is a problem, too complex. Also inaccessible accident button.
Finally, we can say that in practice (in particular onboard large container ships) there is a need to have access to a tool that can be used easily and clearly to avoid dangerous sea conditions. This is a recognised need and is being worked on by numerous institutions. Research and development should be intensively expedited in order to be able to provide a reliable tool to vessel commands as soon as possible.
Regarding point 8 are there any substantial developments in this matter since this accident in 2008?
I believe the report stated 6 empty containers were lost. Still pretty insignificant considering what the ship went through.
The reduction in roll dampening at low speeds, It seems true from my experence but I don’t recall seeing an explanation anywhere.
It is also interesting to have data to back up the claim that in some conditions a ship will roll less if it’s just left to drift.
Here is the text from the incident report:
8.4.1 Drifting abeam
The Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation recommends that nautical
colleges, vessel operators and ship’s commands intensively address the issue of
hazards on the bridge of large container vessels in heavy swell. Drifting abeam would
have led to a significant portion of energy from the swell being converted into a drift
motion rather than a rolling motion and typically a large roll angle does not occur in
such situations. However, it should be remembered that the external circumstances
(danger of running aground) and the eventual possibility that the stern will turn
against the sea and can then be exposed to extreme slamming pressures on the flat
aft section must be duly considered.
The Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation draws the attention of nautical
colleges, vessel operators and ship’s commands to the fact that decreasing the
speed below a critical value may result in a dangerous deterioration of the dynamic
roll damping. Conversely, in that regard it is also necessary to be aware of the risks
to the vessel and (deck) cargo associated with excessively high speed.
I would imagine that when the full report comes out mention will be made of the failure of the duty Mate to adequately check the lashings. What was OK and practical on a 4000 teu container ship is no longer achievable on these modern day behemoths.
The theory of roll damping is rather complex and the phenomenon can be broken down into five constituents: skin friction, wave, lift, eddy making and bilge keel.
The effect of forward speed is significant to roll damping and the nonlinear damping decreases with increasing velocity as is shown in the above picture .
About the effect of drift motion on the roll damping, there were forced rolling tests in drift motion carried out. The results suggest that drift motion increases the roll damping of the model with and without bilge keels
You see Container vessels of any size piled high with containers, but they seldom if ever are even near the load line so they would have dead weight capacity to spare.
Could passive anti-roll tanks help reduce the roll motion enough to alleviate the problem of excessive rolling?:
Using double bottom tanks for this purpose requires quite a lot of liquids to get the desired effect, but by placing the anti-roll tanks as high as possible the amount of liquids needed is relatively small. Side-to-side tanks placed on or above main deck level could do the trick.
Some fishing vessel have an anti-roll tank just under the wheelhouse as this one, the Longliner Janas:
The first generation box boats did indeed have anti roll (flume) tanks but after that nix. This seems to be a case of procedural errrors combined with the speed of growth of the ultra large box boats.
This is from the Chicago Express incident report:
6.2 Shipbuilding deficits
The physical effects and phenomena from which the accident resulted that can be
used to describe and explain the motions of a vessel in water occur, in principle,
regardless of vessel type and size. However, due to the structural characteristics of
large and very large container vessels these are particularly prone to absorbing high
levels of swell moment because of their large bow flare. In that regard, it proves to be
critical that there are no statutory, flag state, or – as far as one can see – class-
related requirements for minimum roll damping. Rather, it is the case that, for
example, the structural design of bilge keels 37 (see Fig. 42 below), which serve as a
proven structural means for influencing roll damping, has seen no significant changes
in recent decades. This is astonishing when one considers that the length and
breadth of some vessels has doubled in the intervening period.
The Express was in 10 meter seas, running slow with seas 30 to 60 degrees off the bow.
Why not use the type of retractable gyroscopic stabilizers that cruise ships of similar size use?
Larger box boats did have stabilisers but many of these were welded up due to fuel efficiency issues… then the world went mad with ULCCs