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MAIB: Loss of containers overboard – task seen as routine

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has completed a preliminary assessment into an incident where 34 containers were lost overboard.

What happened

On 31 October 2020, 34 containers were lost overboard from the general cargo vessel Francisca, near Duncansby Head in the North Sea. Francisca was on passage from Iceland to the Netherlands when severe weather conditions were encountered. The deck cargo of containers was struck by green sea forces when the vessel was pitching heavily into the waves, causing stacks to collapse and containers to be lost overboard. All but one of the containers was empty and some debris from the laden container washed up ashore. None of the containers were recovered, and the vessel suffered minor damage on deck. There were no injuries.

What went wrong?

The MAIB’s preliminary assessment found that:

  • Violent pitching and ploughing into the heavy seas resulted in a rapid loss of speed and heading control, which exposed the deck cargo to green sea forces capable of overwhelming the maximum loading of the container securing arrangements;
  • Regular passages between Iceland and the Netherlands meant that the vessel crew had become accustomed to operating in the often poor weather in the North Atlantic, Pentland Firth and North Sea, and this had lowered their appreciation of the significant weather-associated risks. The preliminary assessment also identified that the absence of a protective breakwater at the vessel’s bow increased the risk of cargo loss in heavy weather, and corrosion to the vessel’s deck cargo securing arrangements may have contributed to the scale of the loss.

Members may wish to review the following incidents in which weather played a part.

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