Archives For Container ship

Shanghai Yangshan Deep-Water Port’s Phase IV container terminal started its trial operations last Sunday. The 550-acre, $1.8 billion facility is the latest expansion of the Port of Shanghai’s complex on Yangshan Island, which has deeper water than the port operator’s mainland terminals.

The Port of Shanghai is already the busiest for container traffic in the world, handling a record 37 million TEU in 2016, and the new automated Phase IV terminal will cement its leading position with an additional seven berths and 4-6 million TEU of capacity. Phase III began operations in 2008, but the global financial crisis delayed construction of the long-planned Phase IV until 2014.

According to Chinese state media, Phase IV is the world’s largest automated container terminal, with computer-controlled bridge cranes, AGVs and rail-mounted gantry cranes. All of the equipment is Chinese-made, and the facility also uses a Chinese-designed automated terminal management system. About 100 out of a total of 280 pieces of the automated equipment have already been delivered and are in testing.

“The automated terminal not only increases the port’s handling efficiency, but also reduces carbon emissions by up to 10 percent,” said Chen Wuyuan, president of Shanghai International Port Group, speaking to Xinhua.

Yangshan is the biggest deepwater port in the world. Phase I was finished in 2004, and the following year construction wrapped up on a 20-mile, six-lane bridge to connect the facility to the mainland. Extensive land reclamation allowed for the construction of Phases I through III on new ground adjacent to the islands of Greater and Lesser Yangshan, which were previously home to small fishing communities.

The port handles about 40 percent of Shanghai’s exports, and its operators hope to see it grow as a transshipment hub as well. As of 2016, it operates under a free trade zone status, which speeds up customs procedures and facilitates transferring or storing foreign-origin cargoes. Source: Maritime Executive, 11 December, 2017. Pictures: China State Media

Advertisements

Panama inaugurated the long-awaited Panama Canal expansion on Sunday, 26 June 2016 with the ceremonial transit of the China Shipping Panama through the new neo-panamax Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side.

The $5.25 billion Expansion Program is the largest improvement project in the Canal’s 102-year history, and included the construction of new, larger locks on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides and dredging of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the capacity of the waterway.

Despite challenges facing the global shipping industry, the larger canal is anticipated to open up new routes, services, and market segments, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Source: gCaptain.com – Pictures courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

Saldanha Bay South AfricaRecently while reading of Transnet’s terminal capex expansion plans, I came across this interesting if not highly improbable plan featured in an article by Harry Valentine on Maritime Executive. I say improbable given the current economic and labour situation prevailing in South Africa at this time, not to mention the fact that the Transnet controlled Port of Ngqura is considered South Africa’s transhipment hub. Nonetheless, I think its admirable that such ideas are conceived and with a bit of thought and application are presented for consideration. From a Customs’ perspective such plans – in particular the notion of a floating terminal – could pose some interesting challenges (err opportunities) for SARS particularly given impending new compliance, licensing and reporting requirements contained in the new Customs Control Act. 

The Port of Los Angeles has welcomed its first 18,000-TEU ultra-large container ship, and Brazil, with a population almost as large as the U.S. and with future prospects of increased trade with Asia, could see such ships arriving via South Africa.

The projected future volume of container traffic that will pass through Brazilian ports would warrant future operation of ultra-large container ships between Brazil and major Asian transshipment terminals. However, it would take much investment and likely many years before a Brazilian port and terminal would be able to berth and service these vessels. One option would be to develop a transshipment port in South Africa that could serve as a terminal for ultra-large container ships that sail from such ports as Busan, Inchon, Shanghai and Hong Kong carrying containers destined for South America.

South Africa offers two bays capable of accepting ultra-large container ships. Richards Bay in the Northeast offers a draft clearance of 19 meters, while Saldanha Bay just north of Cape Town offers a draft of 21 meters. Bulk and ore freight terminals operate at both locations. Saldanha Bay is larger than Richard’s Bay, located near the large City of Cape Town and is closer to the shipping lane between South America and the Far East. It is also close to St. Helena Bay where waiting vessels may drop anchor.

When Richards Bay is at capacity, alternative areas where waiting vessels may drop anchor with a measure of protection from stormy seas are located at much greater distances. The Port of Durban is still Africa’s busiest container port and regularly operates at near-capacity. However, Durban and companion ports at Maputo, Port Elizabeth, Coega, East London and Cape Town have insufficient depth to accommodate ultra-large container ships. Saldanha Bay is a natural inlet that offers the necessary depth and has available space to develop a transshipment terminal to the south of the ore terminal.

There are tentative plans to borrow a precedent from Egypt and anchor a floating LNG storage tanker in Saldanha Bay, perhaps near the southern end of the inlet, to serve a variety of customer requirements. Tanker vessels could regularly carry LNG from Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola to the floating storage terminal. Operational precedents established at the Port of Durban could ensure smooth operation of maritime vessels entering and leaving Saldanha Bay, especially with excess vessels being able to drop anchor in St. Helena Bay as well as nearby Table Bay at Cape Town some 60 nautical miles away.

Future ultra-large container ships of 22,000 TEUs would offer savings in terms of average cost per container on the segment between Saldanha Bay and distant East Asian ports at or near the South China Sea. Automated terminal operations that include transfer of containers among vessels could contribute to competitive transportation costs to a variety of destinations along South America’s Atlantic coast as well as several South African ports, perhaps extending as far north as Nigeria on the Atlantic Coast (Asia – Africa trade), Tanzania on the East Coast (Africa – South America trade), as well as domestic Africa -Africa trade.

While South Africa’s economy may presently be under-performing, South African authorities have the option of inviting foreign investors and developers to explore the option of developing a transshipment super port at Saldanha Bay. Future trade through Saldanha Bay would include containers sailing to and from East Asian transshipment terminals such as Port of Colombo and Port of Singapore to connect into the combination of West Coast Africa – Asia and Atlantic Coast South America -Asia trade. Such combined trade enhances prospects for potentially viable transshipment port and terminal operations at a South African bay.

A transshipment super port at the southern end of the African continent would mostly transfer containers that originate from and be destined for foreign ports. Only a minority of the containers would originate from or be destined for domestic South African ports. South African exporters and importers would benefit from lower transportation costs per container compared to the transportation costs per container aboard smaller vessels.

It’s an idea worth considering.

Floating Islands

Cape Town is at the crossroads of ships that carry the trade between Asian nations and nations along the Atlantic Coast of South America and sub-Sahara West Africa. There may be future scope for an offshore, floating transshipment terminal built at Saldanha Bay and assembled either at Cape Town or St Helena Bay to reduce per-container transportation costs along this trade route. Such a terminal would attract interest from overseas. A floating hotel partially surrounded by breakwaters and permanently anchored offshore near a coastal city could be connected to the mainland using floating bridges and water taxi service.

There may be scope to expand upon the technology to develop multiple floating structures in a calm water area, with bridges connecting between them at strategic locations to maintain navigable canals between them. While water taxis could shuttle visitors between mainland and an offshore floating island, semi-floating bridges could also connect between mainland and such islands that may include business districts and even residential areas.

Coupled floating structures may also serve as an airport with a runway for commuter size of aircraft and perhaps even comparable size of wing-in-ground effect vehicles that provide service between coastal cities.

Source: article by Harry Valentine.

Aerial view of Rotterdam Container Terminal

The Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, is the largest port in Europe covering 105 square kilometers. (Picture: Benjamin Grant/Google Earth/Digital Globe)

Majestic MaerskContainer shipping lines are poised to take delivery of a new generation of “megaships” over the next two years, just as the growth of world trade is slowing down, contributing to massive overcapacity in the market.

Megaships, which can be up to 400 meters long, seem to be here to stay, not least because so many more are already on order, the product of high fuel costs and low interest rates.

But the trend towards larger vessels is not without problems especially for other businesses in the transport system, and the trend could be nearing its limit as the economies of scale associated with megaships decline.

Container shipping capacity has doubled every seven years since the turn of the millennium and will reach nearly 20 million TEU in 2015 up from five million TEUs in 2000.

But since the financial crisis, container capacity has continued to grow rapidly, even as the growth in freight volumes has slowed, creating a massive overhang in shipping capacity and pressuring freight rates.

Capacity growth is being driven by the trend towards larger vessels. The size of container ships has been growing faster than for any other ship type according to the OECD’s International Transport Forum.

Between 1996 and 2015, the average carrying capacity of container ships increased 90 percent, compared with a 55 percent increase for dry bulk carriers and 21 percent for tankers.

The growth in container ship size has been accelerating. It took 30 years for the average container ship size to reach 1,500 TEU but just one decade to double from 1,500 to 3,000 TEU.

Between 2001 and 2008, the average size of newly built ships hovered around 3,400 TEU but then jumped to 5,800 TEU between 2009 and 2013, and hit 8,000 TEU in 2015.

Megaships
Both the average size of new container ships and the maximum size are set to continue growing over the next five years. Shipping lines have already taken ownership of 20 megaships with a capacity of more than 18,000 TEU each and another 52 are on order, according to the OECD.

The largest ship so far delivered has a capacity of 19,200 TEU, but carriers with capacity up to 21,100 have been ordered and will be in service by 2017.

Megaships are being introduced into service between the Far East and North Europe, the world’s largest route by volume, where potential economies of scale are greatest, but are having a cascade effect on other routes.

Large ships that formerly plied the Far East-North Europe route are being displaced into Trans-Pacific service, and former Trans-Pacific carriers are moving to the Trans-Atlantic route.

The new generation of ultra-efficient megaships is credited with cutting the cost of shipping even further and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

But researchers for the OECD question whether megaships are contributing to unsustainable overcapacity and imposing unintended costs on shippers, port operators, freight forwarders, logistics firms and insurers.

Fuel Costs
The new generation of megaships is the lagged effect of the era of high oil prices between 2004 and 2014 and low interest rates since the financial crisis in 2008.

Costs in the shipping industry can be divided into the capital costs associated with the construction of new vessels, operating costs, and voyaging costs primarily related to fuel consumption.

Construction costs increase more slowly than ship size. Increasing a container ship from 16,000 TEU to 19,000 TEU cuts the annual capital cost per TEU-slot by around $69 according to the OECD.

Larger ships are slightly more operationally efficient than smaller ones, with an annual saving of perhaps $50 per slot on a 19,000 TEU ship compared with a 16,000 TEU vessel.

But the real savings are on the fuel bills. Megaships are “astonishingly fuel efficient” and actually consume less fuel on a voyage than 16,000 TEU carriers, according to the OECD.

With overwhelming cost advantages, especially on fuel, and cheap finance readily available, the upsizing decision appears to have been a straightforward one for shipping lines.

Slow Steaming
The new generation of megacarriers has been optimized to save fuel by voyaging much more slowly than previous container vessels.

Fuel consumption is related to the cube of speed. If a vessel travels twice as fast it will consume eight times as much fuel. The cube-rule has important implications for the economics of the shipping industry.

When fuel prices are high, it makes sense to voyage slowly to cut fuel bills, even if it means operating more ships to move the same amount of cargo. When fuel prices are low, it makes sense to travel faster and use fewer ships.

During the period of soaring oil prices, container lines instructed captains to cut speed in order to conserve fuel.

The new ships ordered were specifically designed to operate most efficiently at slower speeds to take advantage of slow steaming economies. In fact some carriers are so large they cannot operate at higher speeds.

Crucially, slow steaming has now been designed into the new generation of vessels entering container service, so it will not be easily reversed, even though fuel prices have plunged since 2014.

According to the OECD, most of the voyaging cost reductions in the new generation of megaships come from their optimization for slow steaming rather than from increased size.

“Between 55 and 63 percent (at least) of the savings per TEU when upgrading the vessel size from an early 15,000 TEU design to a modern 19,000 TEU design are actually attributable to the layout for lower operation speeds,” the OECD estimated.

“Cost savings are decreasing as ships become bigger,” the OECD concluded. “A large share of the cost savings was achieved by ship upsizing to 5,000 TEU, which more than halved the unit costs per TEU, but the cost savings beyond that capacity are much smaller.”

Unintended Costs
The consolidation of container volumes into fewer, larger megaships is creating challenges for other firms in the freight business.

Insurers are worried about the costs if a megaship sinks or develops mechanical problems. Insurer Allianz has warned the industry must prepare for losses of more than $1 billion, or even up to $2 billion in the event of a collision between two megaships.

Economies of scale depend on megacarriers being loaded close to maximum capacity and spending as much time as possible at sea rather than in port.

The need to fill megaships is one reason that the industry is consolidating into an alliance network.

Shipping lines are also adopting the hub-and-spoke system employed by airlines to ensure their ultra-large container vessels sail nearly full.

Shipping schedules for the megacarriers have been consolidated into fewer sailings each week from fewer ports (about six in North Europe and eight in Asia).

Containers for other destinations must be transhipped, either on a smaller container vessel or by road, rail and barge. Schedule consolidation is not necessarily favored by shippers and freight forwarders who prefer regular and reliable service (fewer sailings can mean more concentrated risk).

Port operators, too, have been forced to invest heavily to attract and handle the new megacarriers. Port channels must be dredged to greater depths to handle the deeper drafts of the megaships. Quaysides must be raised and strengthened to handle the increased forces when a megaship is tied up.

The biggest problem comes from the scramble to unload a megacarrier quickly so it can put to sea again. The average turnaround time for a container ship is now just one day, and less in Asia.

The arrival of fewer vessels but with larger numbers of containers is creating intense peak time pressure on the ports.
Ports need more cranes, more highly skilled staff to operate them fast, more space in the yard, and the ability to handle more trucks, railcars and barges to move the containers inland.

The OECD estimates megaships are increasing landside costs by up to $400 million per year (one third for extra equipment, one third for dredging, and one third for port infrastructure and hinterland costs). Source: Maritime Executive/Reuters.

Port of Singapore [Picture credit - singaporevisablog.wordpress.com]

Port of Singapore [Picture credit – singaporevisablog.wordpress.com]

The Port of Singapore has been named the best seaport in Asia for the 27th time – beating fierce rivals Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The honour was given out at the 2015 Asia Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain Awards (AFLAS) held in Hong Kong here the other day.

The AFLAS awards, organised by freight and logistics publication Asia Cargo News, honour organisations for demonstrating leadership as well as consistency in service quality, innovation, customer relationship management and reliability.

Determined by votes cast by readers of Asia Cargo News, the Port of Singapore clinched the award for its leading performance on a range of criteria, including cost competitiveness, container shipping-friendly fee regime, provision of suitable container shipping-related infrastructure, timely and adequate investment in new infrastructure to meet future demand and the facilitation of ancillary services.

The other finalists in the Asia category this year were the Port of Hong Kong and Port of Shanghai.

Said Mr Andrew Tan, chief executive of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA): “We will continue to work closely with all our stakeholders to strengthen our competitiveness as a premier global hub port and international maritime centre.

“Singapore will also continue to plan and invest ahead, such as our commissioning of Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4 this week which will increase the overall capacity of Singapore’s port to 50 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) when fully operational.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday officially opened the terminals. When the expansion is fully operational by the end of 2017, Singapore will be able to handle a total of 50 million TEUs of containers annually.

MPA said the Port of Singapore continued to achieve good growth in 2014. Its annual vessel arrival tonnage reached 2.37 billion gross tonnes (GT). Its container throughput hit 33.9 million TEUs, while total cargo tonnage handled reached 580.8 million tonnes.

Its total volume of bunkers remained the highest in the world, at 42.4 million tonnes. The total tonnage of ships under the Singapore Registry of Ships was 82.2 million GT, putting Singapore among the top 10 ship registries in the world.

TraxensFrench shipping giant CMA CGM will start phasing in ‘smart’ containers this year, allowing the line and its customers to keep track of each box equipped with new sensors at all times. In an industry first, technology being developed with a start-up company, Traxens, would enable data on the location and condition of the container to be monitored at all times throughout a delivery.

The world’s third-largest container line and Ocean Three member said it had contributed to the capital increase of French firm Traxens that will enable CMA CGM to have access to an unprecedented amount of information on each container and offer clients what it describes as unique tracking solutions and real-time data collecting from all over the world.

Elie Zeenny, CMA CGM senior vice-president, Group IT Systems, said the technology would bring the shipping industry into a new era. This year, Traxens plans to equip the first CMA CGM containers with the patented technology so it will be possible to know in real-time not only a container’s position, but also its temperature, the vibrations it will be subjected to, any attempted burglary, the presence of traces of specific substances in the air or even the regulatory status of the cargo.

With its “4Trax” solution, Traxens offers the tracking of containers from cargo loading to their final destination, and the forwarding of data in real time to all actors in the multimodal transport chain. Traxens has also worked closely with French Customs in the development of its solution. In this regard the solution aims to record the legal status of the container (customs clearance) with the view to eradicate false declarations and counterfeits and to facilitate controls. Sources: Lloyds loading, CMA CGM and Traxens

Port of Shanghai, China [Picture: DaliyMail.co.uk]

Port of Shanghai, China [Picture: DaliyMail.co.uk]

Shanghai retained its title as the world’s busiest container port for a fifth consecutive year after widening the gap with its closest rival Singapore.

Singapore handled 33.9 million 20-foot containers last year, according to a statement posted on the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore’s website dated Jan. 16. Last month, Shanghai said it expects to process about 35.2 million boxes in 2014. A year before, the gap between the two ports was about 1 million boxes.

Shanghai, Shenzhen and other ports in China are dominating the global container-shipping market while the facility in Ningbo overtook South Korea’s Busan last year as the world’s fifth-busiest harbor. Seven of the world’s 10 top container ports were in China in 2013, with Hong Kong coming in fourth.

Shipping companies are adding larger container ships to meet demand as economic growth helped consumers to spend more money on clothes and food. Global trade last year probably grew 3.8 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Global containerized trade reached 124 million boxes in the first 11 months of 2014, an increase of 4.3 percent from 118.9 million a year ago, according to Container Trade Statistics Ltd.

Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., the world’s second-largest container shipping company, currently operates the biggest vessel that can carry 19,224 boxes between Asia and Europe. Last year, China Shipping Container Lines Co. launched a ship that could carry about 19,100 containers. Source: Bloomberg/GCaptain

Worlds Largest Container ship 2Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. in Ulsan, South Korea has just named the new title-holder for the world’s largest container ship; a 19,000 TEU giant for China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) named CSCL Globe. CSCL Globe measures 400.0 m in length, 58.6 m in width and 30.5 m in-depth, and will be deployed on the Asia-Europe trade loop after being handed over to the owner later this month. The ship was ordered by CSCL back in May 2013 along with four other 19,000 TEU capacity ships for a total cost of $700 million.

The series was originally planned to carry 18,400 TEUs, but were later updated by 600 TEU. For comparison, Maersk’s Triple-E’s have a TEU capacity of 18,000 and measure 400 meters long by 59 meters wide. Maersk Line has ordered a total of 20 of the ships from Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, also in South Korea, to be delivered by 2016.

Upon delivery, CSCL Globe will take over the title of world’s largest container ship from MV Maersk Maersk McKinney Moller and her Triple-E sister vessels, first delivered in July 2013. Before that, the title of was held briefly by MV CMA CMG Marco, a 16,020 TEU capacity container ship delivered to CMA CGM Group in November 2012. Source: gCaptain.com

MOL-ComfortMany may recall the shocking pictures of MOL Comfort’s last voyage last year – images of a huge crack in the fully laden container ship on the high sea.

While conducting research for her PhD thesis at the Technical University of Denmark, Ingrid Marie Vincent Andersen, PhD had found clues prior to this incident suggesting the possibility of catastrophic failure was more real than previously thought.

Digging deep into the hydro-elastic structural response of container ships similar to the MOL Comfort, she had discovered some very interesting details.

Clearly, the ship had broken up when the hull girders failed, but what led to that failure was not so obvious. She, like many others, say it very likely had a lot to do with the cargo loading condition of the ship, but the full answer was quite a bit more complicated than that.

Anderson says the MOL Comfort and her sister vessels were simply under engineered by naval architects that didn’t fully account for enormous additional loads which were being placed on the ship.

“It is believed that the hydro-elastic effects and the effect of hull girder flexibility are capable of significantly amplifying the hull girder stresses and thus contribute to fatigue damage as well as to the extreme hull girder loading in container ships,” Andersen notes in her PhD thesis.

In her research, she studied ships in the 8000-9000 TEU range and discovered, “the hull girder vibrations due to hydro-elastic effects is capable of doubling the stress response amidships in some cases – also in the extreme loading cases.” Click here to witness a video of stress experienced on a container ship.

“I don’t think the incident was fatigue-related, but it could be due to under-estimation of the hydro-elastic effects on the wave-induced vertical bending moment at the design stage. The major uncertainty at the design stage is related to estimation of the wave loads,” notes Anderson.

Research published by Lloyd’s Register (LR) engineers Nigel White and Zhenhong Wang support Andersen’s research.

LR notes the principle design challenge inherent to large and ultra-large container ships is the combined effects of whipping, springing and warping/distortion of the hatch openings.

Until recently, Andersen notes that hydro-elastic effects have not been directly taken into account for in the classification societies’ design rules for container ships. In 2014, LR updated their design rules to reflect the discovery of much higher loadings inside the structure of container ships.

Andersen, White and Wang all cite strain data captured aboard a 2006-built CMA CGM 9,600 TEU container ship over a four-year period showing severe spikes in the vertical bending moment as wave strikes on the bow resonate down the ship.

Anderson notes that due to a large uncertainty around sea state conditions a vessel will encounter, maximum wave loading is subsequently uncertain. Wave loading is compounded by container ships that opt for greater cargo space forward, and thus greater bow flare such as on the MOL Comfort and the ultra-large 14,000 TEU+ sized vessels that are currently in operation.

These bending moments, according to their research can be upwards of 300 percent the traditionally calculated wave bending moment using linear ship motion codes – the ones that ships have traditionally been built to. The traditional codes have a realized safety factor of around 200 percent.

Anderson notes that due to a large uncertainty around sea state conditions a vessel will encounter, maximum wave loading is subsequently uncertain. Wave loading is compounded by container ships that opt for greater cargo space forward, and thus greater bow flare such as on the MOL Comfort and the ultra-large 14,000 TEU+ sized vessels that are currently in operation.

“The high strength steel used for the construction of the ship will result in a slightly lower natural frequency and possibly, together with the pronounced bow flare, making the vessel more susceptible to whipping vibrations,” adds Anderson.

Since the MOL Comfort sinking, all of the sister vessels to the MOL Comfort have been retrofitted with additional structural steel, but certainly other ships in that size range have not.

Considering the step changes being made in container ship design, logic would dictate that additional study and consideration be taken when designing and operating such vessels, including the installation of strain gauges to properly measure what is happening inside the ship. Source: gCaptain.com

Triple-E-full-loaded

MV Mary Maersk departed Algeciras, Spain fully laden [Gcaptain.com]

On July 21, 2014, the MV Mary Maersk departed Algeciras, Spain with a world record 17,603 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), the most TEU’s ever loaded onto a single vessel.

MV Mary Mearsk is the third vessel in Maersk Line’s Triple-E class, which have nominal capacity of 18,270 TEU, although port restrictions have prevented the vessels from reaching full capacity.

“Algeciras has been preparing for full utilisation of the Triple-E for more than a year,” says Carlos Arias, head of the South Europe Liner Operations Cluster. “This included the upgrading of four existing cranes and the arrival of four new Triple-E cranes.”

After departing Algeciras, the vessel was bound for Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, which included a trip through the Suez Canal. Arias added that similar upgrades needed to be made at the port of Tanjung Pelepas, and this was the first occasion where both ends were ready. Source: Gcaptain.com

Earlier this year Reuters featured a series of excellent photographs by Singapore-based photographer Edgar Su, who spent time documenting working life in and around the Port of Singapore. Connected to more than 600 ports in some 120 countries, Singapore is one of the world’s busiest shipping hubs, and is often called the gateway to Asia. It plans to increase its total capacity dramatically as it competes with other massive ports in the region such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China and Busan in South Korea. Source: Reuters

The container ship Svendborg Maersk was battered by hurricane winds as it crossed the northern stretch of the Bay of Biscay on February 14th. Battling 30-foot waves and working through winds of 60 knots the ship arrived only to find that a large chunk of her cargo had been swept overboard. The ship was originally heading from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka.

The shipping giant initially reported that only 70 containers had been lost in the storms. However, last Wednesday this number skyrocketed to 517 – the largest recorded loss of containers overboard in a single incident. Countless more are supposed to have been damaged when six of the bays tilted over.

Maersk have suggested that almost 85 percent of the containers were empty, with the rest containing mostly dry goods and frozen meats. They also reinforced the fact that none of the containers were carrying harmful substances and that many had sunk in the turbulent seas.

Nevertheless, French authorities have been on the lookout for floating containers, which can be hugely problematic for other shipping vessels, alongside a huge environmental risk. According to New Zealand marine insurer Vero Marine, a 20-foot container can float for up to two months, whilst a 40-foot container may float up to three times longer.

Already, containers have been surfacing as far away as the coast of East Devon, United Kingdom. The 40-foot container washed up at Axmouth, near Seaton and is estimated to contain 14 tonnes of cigarettes. Police were immediately called in to cordon off the area and scare away any would-be smokers hoping to make a steal and sneak off with a portion of the 11 million cigarettes (refer to picture gallery).

As of yet, there has never been a requirement for shipping lines to report container loses to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)or any other international body. In 2011, the World Shipping Council estimated that around 675 containers were lost at sea, whilst the Through Transport Club, which insures 15 of the top 20 container lines, has suggested that the number is closer to 2,000.

However, other sources suggest that this is nowhere near the true number, with some citing as many as 10,000 lost at sea each year. Analysts have suggested that one of the reasons such loses can occur are due to the lack of accuracy when weighing containers before transit. Some shippers have been found to understate the weight of containers in order to reduce shipping costs. Such misinformation can lead to uneven strain on a vessel as it transverses the seas.

One of the most notable incidents occurred in 2007 when the MSC Napoli ran aground off the English coast, breaking up and spilling 103 containers worth of toxic cargo, polluting five miles of the South Western coast. The UK marine accident investigation board ruled that the accident was due to cargo being loaded in such a way that it exceeded the baring weight of the hull girders, resulting in a structural failure across the ship. The report concluded that if such loses are to be prevented, it is essential that containers be weighed before embarkation. Source: Port Technology

Container vessel outside the Port of Cape Town

Container vessel outside the Port of Table Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. (Picture and article – Maritime-Executive)

A Port Control ships Pilot was set to be airlifted by helicopter to the ship and the ship will be moved to the Container Docks in the Port of Table Bay where they will be met by Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services who will board the ship to fight the blaze.

A (National Sea Rescue Institute) NSRI rescuer, Gavin Kode, was transferred onto the ship to make an evaluation and confirmed that no crew are injured and that they are The 222 meter fully laden container ship LILAC reported a fire in one of their holds, 1 nautical mile off the Port of Table Bay in South Africa on 28 September, with a total of 21 onboard.

The ship’s captain reported that his crew was fighting to contain the fire, and that at this stage he was not declaring an emergency. A ship’s officer reported that they were fighting the blaze with Co2 fire equipment.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) deployed 4 rescue vessels, and remained close to the ship as a precautionary measure. On their arrival, light white smoke could be observed coming from the ship.

LILAC confirmed to the JOC (Joint Operations Control at the Transnet National Ports Authority) to allow an NSRI rescuer and a Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services engineer onboard the ship to make an assessment. Transnet National Ports Authority is requesting that the type of blaze be identified, any chemical fall out risk to be identified and then to assess the feasibility of having the ship brought to a mooring at Port where Fire and Rescue teams can board the ship to take over fighting the blaze and to contain the situation. Source: Maritime-Executive

 

Port of Oakland - VertiTainer's  crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

Port of Oakland – VertiTainer’s crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

While the question of mandatory weighing of containers features high on the International Maritime Organisations’ (IMO) list of priorities, a recent post “Container Weighing – industry solution on the horizon“, reminded me of a solution which has been around for some time now, but for various reasons would appear to have been overlooked by authorities – or so it would appear. Readers and followers of this blog may well already have viewed the feature on VeriTainer’s gantry crane mounted radiation detection and identification system, called the VeriSpreader® – refer to the New generation NII technology page of this Blog.

The spreader is a device used for lifting containers and unitized cargo. The spreader used for containers has a locking mechanism at each corner that attaches the four corners of the container. A spreader can be used on a container crane, a straddle carrier and with any other machinery to lift containers. (Wikipedia)

The recent maritime disaster involving the breaking-in-half, and eventual sinking of the MOL Comfort gave rise to the question of overloaded container boxes. While government and international security-minded organisations have pursued methods to address breaches in the supply chain, it would seem that little ‘innovation’ has been applied to the problem – specifically in regard to minimizing the time and cost of routing containers via purpose-built inspection facilities.

At least three known radiation incidents have hit the headlines in recent times – namely Port of Genoa (2010), Port Elizabeth, New Jersey (Feb, 2013), and the most recent in the Port of Voltri (July, 2013). Each of these incidents warranted an emergency response from authorities with a consequential impact on Port Operations.  Unfortunately, advanced risk management systems and other security safeguards did not alert suspicion, allowing these ‘threats’ into the heart of the port, not to mention the radiation threat to port workers?

It could be argued that since the inception of government-led supply chain security, 2002 onwards, many of the world’s supply chains have built in ‘possible inspection’ into their export lead times. A trip to a purpose-built inspection facility will normally require diverting transport from its predestined journey to a land border crossing or seaport. Moreover, lack of predictability often causes delays with possible loss of business where ‘security’ measures delay the movement of cargo.

Several Customs and Border authorities have instituted ‘export-led’ compliance programmes which seek to create better regulatory awareness and expectation for shippers. While not without merit, these still impose an inherent cost to trade where in some instances, shipper’s are compelled to institute ISO-type security standards which for some require dedicated and skilled experts to entrench and maintain these throughout the organisation. So, while the development of increasing levels of compliance amongst supply chain operators will occur over time, what of government ‘Non-Intrusive’ inspection capability?

Port Technology International‘s Feb 2013 article – Future X-Ray Inspection Equipment to be based on Industry Standards – opined that “future developments in cargo screening are likely to follow a common innovation trajectory that is fostered by market needs and new technology, while being strengthened by existing intellectual property and evolving industry standards. Innovation is often perceived as a circular path beginning with customer needs that are identified by a technology developer. The developer then creates application technology in the form of products to meet those needs”.

Land and rail-based cargo screening technology has improved immensely over the last 10 years with improved safety (shielding), throughput (speed) and portability. Engineers have likewise realized the need to ‘fuse’ imaging and radiation threat detection technologies, all offering a more cost-effective package to the end-user. These are by and large the Customs and Border authorities worldwide who protect our territorial waters and ports. Yet, the approach remains ‘modality driven’ which has ensured a period of predictability for designers and manufacturers, not to mention their revenue streams. Given the container weighing – port radiation threats discussed earlier, perhaps it is time now for transport and enforcement authorities to consider technologies as developed by VeriTainer and Lasstec and define a specification for “100%” needs – could this be uniform? Not unlike Lasstec’s container-weighing solution that allows the weighing of containers during the loading cycle so not to disrupt the work flow, Veritainer’s VeriRAD solution uses a gantry crane ‘spreader’ to house its unique solution with specific emphasis to mitigate the threat of a ‘dirty bomb’.