Container ship Baltic Tern loses five containers in the North Sea [UPDATE]

A ship lost five containers on Wednesday 7 April, approximately 27.5 kilometres north of Dutch Wadden Island Ameland in the North Sea. Another two containers are at risk of falling overboard as well, reports the Netherlands Coast Guard.

The captain of the 169-metre container ship Baltic Tern reported the loss of the five containers at around 10.45 am. The Coast Guard warns ships about the lost containers. A Coast Guard plane has flown to the location to try and locate the containers.

One container contains acetone, another container is empty and three containers contain “dry goods”, the Coast Guard has been notified. Whether the containers will wash ashore is still unknown, the Coast Guard said. ‘Based on calculations, possible scenarios will be determined.’

Two containers located

Update 7 April 16:16: The Coastguard plane is at the location and has observed two floating containers, one of which is a tanktainer. The crew of the container ship is busy securing one of the two sliding containers on deck. The other container is still unstable.

The ship Baltic Tern came from German waters and was en route to Rotterdam.

Picture shot by the Netherlands Coast Guard plane.

Also read: Dutch Safety Board: Review container ship requirements to prevent container loss

Tightened advice on shipping routes

The area north of the Dutch Wadden Islands has a history when it comes to container loss. During the night of 1 to 2 January 2019, the container ship MSC Zoe lost 342 containers during a storm on the so-called southern Wadden route leading to a massive clean-up operation. On the 11 February 2020, the OOCL Rauma lost seven containers on the same route. during the night of 1 to 2 January 2019, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen tightened advice for this route.

Van Nieuwenhuizen asked the Coast Guard to base this advice on ‘provisional limiting wave heights’, which maritime research institute MARIN has established for three types of container ships (feeder, Panamax and ULCS). At those wave heights, there is a chance that containers will go overboard. In some cases, these are lower than five metres. This is the limit that the Coast Guard now uses when advising ships to take the northern Wadden route.

However, the Coast Guard can only advise and not prohibit ships from using this route. In addition, the northern route is not without risks either. In October, experts already warned that an MSC Zoe type disaster could happen again at any time.

The House of Representatives has been pressing for the closure of the southern shipping route in heavy weather for a long time. According to Van Nieuwenhuizen, however, this cannot be done just like that, because this is an international shipping route. In order to be able to restrict transit, a request must be submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), together with Germany and Denmark. That procedure is set in motion, but can take years.

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

Pictures 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.