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.
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.
Oooh boy! Crew member shared a picture of the ONE Apus following reports of an estimated 1900 container lost or damaged. This could be the worst liner shipping disaster outside of total loss of vessel! pic.twitter.com/BmDxSSg5UG
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.
“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.”
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Kevin Knodell reported on the military and veterans for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported topics.