January 22, 2021 2:00 PM, EST

Maersk Loses 750 Containers as Seas Hammer L.A.-Bound Ship

Shipping containers sit aboard a Maersk container ship. (Kristian Helgesen/Bloomberg News)Shipping containers sit aboard a Maersk container ship. (Kristian Helgesen/Bloomberg News)

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One of AP Moller-Maersk’s containerships carrying goods from China to the U.S. lost part of its cargo in the Pacific Ocean during bad weather.

About 750 containers from the Maersk Essen fell overboard Jan. 16 while sailing from Xiamen, China, to Los Angeles, the company said in an email statement. All crew members are safe, and a detailed assessment of the cargo is ongoing while the vessel continues its journey. The ship is expected at Mexico’s Lazaro Cardenas on Jan. 29 for cargo surveys, port operations and repairs.

Containerships are traveling fully laden with goods from China to the U.S. this year as freight rates surge to record highs and companies restock inventories. The incident comes after the ONE Apus containership managed by NYK Shipmanagement Pte lost 1,816 containers at sea due to severe weather Nov. 30 while en route to Long Beach, Calif., from Yantian, China.

‘Impossible’ Recovery

Winter in the North Pacific is notorious for bringing extreme weather and heavy seas, and large containerships are traveling at maximum speeds, said Clive Reed, founder of Reed Marine Maritime Casualty Management Consultancy. Problems with rolling and bad weather can be overcome by the shipmaster slowing down, he said.

“However, current freight rates are high, and there is commercial pressure on the ships to arrive on time and consequently make more voyages,” Reed said. “These tight schedules leave the master little room to literally maneuver.”

Reed said recovering containers midocean is an “economic nonstarter.”

“It is close to impossible to retrieve containers lost overboard,” he said. “The majority will sink within a relatively short period of time.”

The Maersk Group ranks No. 4 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest global freight carriers.

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