Container ships: Analysis of marine casualties


( Container vessels, over the years, have gained increasing visibility and relevance in international trade. More than 90% of the world non-bulk cargo carried by ships makes use of containers. Consequently, container vessels have become an increasingly important part of the global logistics value chain of a market which has recorded a constant growth from the ‘80s onwards (except for 2009, which can be attributed to the consequences of the financial crisis).

Fire and explosion on board the MSC Flaminia on 14/07/2012 in the Atlantic Ocean

The relevance of looking at container vessels now is supported by the following rationale:

  • the great significance of the fleet in terms of growth and ship size;
  • the critical role of containerships to the intermodal economy; and
  • the public visibility of accidents involving container vessels, namely cargo fires, container losses and other non-ship-specific accidents. Notable examples of major marine casualties affecting container vessels include, amongst others, loss of control of Jolly Nero (07/05/2013), fires on MSC Flaminia (14/07/2014) and Yantian Express (03/01/2019), loss of control on Maersk Jaipur (08/10/2018), loss of 342 containers by MSC Zoe (01/01/2019).

EMSA has developed a methodology to analyze the findings of the safety investigations reported in the European Marine Casualty Information Platform. (EMCIP) in order to detect potential safety issues. This methodology assesses and identifies specific “core” attributes, like the accident events and the factors that contributed to the occurrences and has been used to conduct an analysis focused on container vessels whose occurrences were reported between 2011 and 2019.

MSC Zoe following the loss overboard of containers

Eleven safety issues have been identified for “occurrences with ships” (OWS), each one has been examined with a further division into sub-categories under each area of concern.

Following a further assessment based on frequency and magnitude, the top 5 safety issues related to container ships are linked to the following categories:

    1. Work operation methods,
    2. Safety assessment – review,
    3. Tools and hardware (design and operation),
    4. Planning and procedures, and
    5. Maintenance.

The top three safety issues for “occurrence with persons” (OWP) are related to:

(i) Work/operation methods,

(ii) Tools and hardware (design or operation), and

(iii) Safety assessment – review.

Six vessel-specific issues have also been detected from various safety investigations:

    1. lack of proper cargo documentation;
    2. handling of specific goods;
    3. response to fire on containers;
    4. unsafe conditions leading to loss of containers;
    5. working practices to handle containers on board; and
    6. response of Coastal Authorities following major marine casualties.

Furthermore, the document incorporates key statistics concerning marine casualties and incidents, either investigated or not, with the view to provide a better understanding of the occurrences that involve container vessels.

Click below to download the full report ANALYSIS OF MARINE CASUALTIES AND INCIDENTS INVOLVING CONTAINER VESSELS 2020 (81 pages): 


Source: EMSA


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