A dreadful week for the world’s largest container shipping line has sadly ended in multiple fatalities.
The week started with a terse Maersk Line statement. “The vessel Maersk Shanghai, reported between 70 – 73 containers collapsed and/or were lost overboard due to poor weather at sea when in route to Charleston, South Carolina.”
It later transpired that due to high winds and heavy seas the Maersk Shanghai actually lost 76 containers, including one loaded with sulphuric acid. At the time of writing, all but two of the containers have sunk.
Vessels losing containers overboard, or stacks collapsing are worryingly common and underline the critical need for shippers to always insure their cargo.
Later the same day that the Maersk Shanghai hit bad weather, the Maersk Honam caught fire in the Arabian Sea en route to the Mediterranean.
The blaze quickly spread and despite swift assistance, the evacuation of 22 crew, and extensive fire-fighting efforts, the lives of four seafarers were lost, with a further crew member also presumed to be lost.
Maersk have subsequently declared general average, which means that the financial loss resulting from salvage, port and transfer costs will be divided among cargo owners.
The insurance industry is bracing itself for hundreds of millions of pounds in claims from the biggest container vessel loss for many years.
Inevitably a large number of shippers will not have been insured, will be under-insured, or will not have realised they needed to insure, which means they will need to pay big cash deposits to the carrier’s legal representatives to get their cargo released.