Dutch Safety Board calls for better risk management on the North Sea routes

Dutch Safety Board calls for better risk management on the North Sea routes
MSC ZOE lost around 270 containers in January 2019

Following the MSC ZOE accident in 2019, the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) has called for better risk management of container transport on the shopping routes on the North Sea north of the Wadden area.

Approximately 270 containers, carrying cargo including chemicals, fell from the 19,000 teu container ship in January 2019 during a storm.

In a report, the OVV stated: “The accident with MSC ZOE is a pivotal point in the attitude towards container losses on the shipping routes are perceived, and should lead all stakeholders involved to realise that every container lost in this area is one too many, and that container loss should therefore be prevented.”

The OVV noted in its report on the incident that on both the southern route, close to the Wadden Islands, and the northern route used to reach the German container ports specific risks can occur.

As container ships have become larger and wider, the natural roll period of these ships closely approximates the wave period that can prevail on the North Sea which, in the event of high beam seas, causes violent rolling motion.

This in turn leads to rapid accelerations on the ship, containers and lashing equipment and as large forces act on the vessel and the design limits are exceeded the lashing systems and/or containers can fall overboard.

At present, there are no specific guidelines, restrictions or requirements for container ships making use of the northern or southern shipping route above the Wadden Islands.

Being shorter, the southern route is often selected due to the time saved and lower fuel consumption.

The OVV report, in collaboration with the Wadden states Germany and Denmark, proposed that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) initiate a review of technical standards, the introduction of restrictions, recommended routes, precautionary areas, traffic control and/or information provision.

After the incident, MSC made its own decision to avoid the southern sailing route for subsequent voyages.

In a statement the shipping said: “We will continue to follow official guidance on designated container shipping routes in the North Sea, if and when such guidance evolves.”

The report also asked that the Netherlands Coastguard be granted the tasks, authorities and resources it needs to monitor container ships so that ships can sail safely past the Wadden Islands in all wave and weather conditions.

The OVV noted that preventing the loss of containers is in the first place the responsibility of shipping companies and container ships masters.

In order to fulfil this responsibility, it is important that they are aware of the complex relationships between environmental conditions, ship motion, ship stability and the limits of lashing systems and containers.

The report called for shipping companies and ship masters to be informed of the four hydrodynamic phenomena that emerged in the investigation, which can occur in the event of high beam seas on both shipping routes north of the Wadden Islands.