‘Captain MSC Zoe not guilty of losing containers in the North Sea’

The captain of the container ship MSC Zoe will not be prosecuted, the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office has announced. The container ship lost a huge load of containers in bad weather in the night of 1 to 2 January 2019, north of the Wadden Islands.

The captain cannot be blamed, there is no question of fault or intent, concludes the Public Prosecutor after an investigation.

Two years ago, 342 containers were swept overboard from the MSC Zoe, which was sailing under a Panamanian flag. As a result, 3.2 million kilos of waste ended up in both the North Sea and the Wadden Sea. A quarter of the rubbish is still in the water.

Also read: Dutch government wants new regulations for container ships after MSC Zoe

Because the cargo was lost in Dutch territorial waters above Vlieland and Terschelling, the Maritime Police Team, in cooperation with the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, started a criminal investigation under the leadership of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation had to determine whether the captain of the MSC Zoe was liable to punishment, for example for environmental pollution or violation of shipping regulations.

Cause cannot be established with certainty

‘The investigation by an expert from TU Delft has not established what exactly caused so many containers to be lost. It is plausible that the ship hit the seabed. This is insufficient to criminally attribute the consequences to the behaviour of the captain. Furthermore, research has shown that the containers on board were secured in accordance with the regulations,’ the Public Prosecutor’s Office states.

Also read: Video: The forces that caused the MSC Zoe to lose containers explained

With hindsight, the choice of the captain for the route along the Wadden Islands is questionable, despite the bad weather, according to the Public Prosecutor. But, concludes the prosecution: ‘The captain was able and allowed to take the chosen short sailing route.’

Source: ANP

Picture by the Netherlands Coast Guard.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

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