‘MSC Zoe Hit Bottom of the Wadden Sea Before Container Disaster’

Container ship MSC Zoe hit the seabed just before the accident at the beginning of this year, in which it lost hundreds of containers above the Wadden Islands. This is the conclusion of research carried out by the Dutch TV programme Zembla.

A reconstruction by Zembla shows that the Zoe made more than thirty degrees of heel that day due to the tempestuous weather. As a result, its draught increased by at least fifteen metres, with the result that the ship hit the seabed, according to experts.

For ships, there are roughly two routes above the Wadden Islands towards Germany: the northern “deep water route” and a shallower southern route, close to the Wadden Islands. As a result, larger ships are more likely to hit the seabed in bad weather. On the night that 342 containers were thrown overboard, the ship sailed along the southern route.

MSC denies that the ship hit the seabed. The shipping company has, however, ordered all its ships to now navigate the northern route. ‘Pending the investigations, MSC voluntarily chooses to take the northern route, despite the fact that we consider the southern route to be safe,’ a spokesman motivates the company.

Defective Black Box

Two weeks ago, it became known that the black box, the so-called Voyage Data Recorder, of the MSC Zoe was defective. The defect came to light a day after the accident during an inspection by the Port Authority in Bremerhaven. This could obstruct the investigation into the circumstances of the container ship disaster.

The Dutch Safety Board (OvV) and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) are investigating the container disaster. They do not wish to make any announcements pending the investigation. They are expected to publish their findings at the beginning of 2020.

Millions Worth of Damage

On the night of 1 to 2 January, 342 containers fell overboard from the MSC Zoe. The cargo fell from the ship north of the Wadden Islands and caused a lot of damage there. The government, municipalities and nature managers together claimed a total of 3.35 million euros from MSC.

Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructure and Water Management) is in talks with the shipping company about the further handling of the damage claims and the salvage operation. In total, MSC spent about 35 million euros on dealing with the container disaster.

This article has also been published on Nieuwsblad Transport, a sister publication of SWZ|Maritime.

Picture by Kees Torn.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.