More than 1,800 containers, including some carrying “dangerous goods,” fell off a Japanese-flagged ship during rough weather off the coast of Hawaii earlier this week, prompting the Coast Guard to warn mariners there may be more debris than usual at sea.

According to the global shipping company Ocean Network Express, the vessel had been moving goods from Tantian, China, to Long Beach, California, when it encountered gale-force winds and large swells approximately 1,840 miles northwest of Hawaii on Monday.

The company confirmed Friday that 1,816 containers were lost and said 64 of them were believed to contain “dangerous goods.” It didn’t specify what was inside.

The Coast Guard is monitoring the situation after 1,816 containers, including some carrying dangerous goods, fell off a Japanese-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Hawaii. Civil Beat/2014

In maritime shipping terms, “dangerous goods” can mean anything from fruit juice concentrates to the volatile mix of fertilizer and fireworks that caused an explosion in Beirut over the summer.

The ONE Apus is now en route to Kobe, Japan, and was expected to arrive on Dec. 8. “Once the ONE Apus is in port and deemed safe, a full investigation will be conducted into this incident in conjunction with the Flag State and the relevant maritime authorities,” the company’s media release stated.

Neither ONE Shipping nor the ship’s registered owner Chidori Ship Holding LLC responded to requests for further details.

The Coast Guard said it was still investigating what exactly had gone overboard — and where it is.

“We’re not really sure of the area of the shipping containers or how widespread it is,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Fisher, a spokesman for Coast Guard District 14 in Honolulu. “We know that it was coming from China on its way to California, but that’s all the information we have at this time.”

Ultimately the Coast Guard considers all the overboard containers to pose a potential threat to mariners and to ocean life. “Technically, anything foreign can be considered hazardous when it’s in our oceans,” said Fisher. “Because of the reefs and the marine life, anything like that can be a potential hazard to them.”

This hasn’t been the only incident involving shipments from ONE. Many have involved massive “megaships” that have raised safety concerns among mariners and analysts.

In October, the Panama-flagged container ship ONE Aquila lost at least 100 containers during rough seas while also en route to Long Beach and had to be diverted to Tacoma, Washington, to assess the damage. This spring another ONE operated vessel crashed into a crane and damaged another ship in Busan, South Korea.

Last year SEU Helsinki Bridge, another vessel operated by ONE, reported losing containers during a voyage between Boston and the Port of Wilmington, though it’s not clear how many containers were lost in that instance. In 2017 the Helsinki Bridge also caused $500,000 in damage to two terminals in Boston when it broke free from mooring lines.

This summer the Coast Guard launched an investigation after 21 containers fell off a barge in Hilo. Fisher said that in this case the company is responsible for cleaning up damage from the massive container spill and that so far the Coast Guard isn’t mobilizing to respond — at least not yet.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and if need be we will intervene of course,” said Fisher. “But at the current moment our only involvement has just been issuing that warning to the local mariners.”

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
 
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
 
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

About the Author