Freighter Accidentally Drops 1800 Containers into the Pacific

  • Someone had an epically bad day at work aboard the ONE Apus.
  • 64 of the over 1800 containers had dangerous chemicals in them.

Someone had an epically bad day at work aboard the cargo ship ONE Apus last week. The cargo ship lost 1,816 shipping containers somewhere in the Pacific while en route to California from Japan. Of those, 64 contain “dangerous goods” like fireworks, liquid ethanol, and batteries. Because we don’t do enough to screw over the ocean daily, amiright?

The seas are angry and want vengeance.

Photo by Thierry Meier on Unsplash

A marine claim consultancy group expects the shipping company’s losses to reach $200 million, including the shipping containers that collapsed but remained on the ship. 

Gale force winds and swells of 50 feet caused the accident, while the ship was about 1500 miles north of Hawaii. The ONE Apus, a new-ish cargo vessel, turned around and headed back to Kobe, Japan, to reorganize and assess the damage to the remaining cargo and the ship itself. 

If you’ve never thought about the commerce of the high seas before, it’s a real booming industry. The World Shipping Council keeps track of the goods moving across the oceans at any given time. In 2019, 6,000 cargo ships carried 226 million containers moved around the globe bringing cars and TVs and fireworks (I guess??). It adds up to a $4 trillion industry, but one that isn’t without catastrophic mistakes. 

Shipping containers are all over the oceans.

Photo by Andres Canavesi on Unsplash

In a year, around 1,300 containers fall off ships as they’re bobbing around the high seas. I guess they don’t tie them down or do more to prevent it. That’s not including the rare catastrophic event like what occurred on the ONE Apus last week. 

The logic tracks that they’ll be more catastrophic events as climate change worsens. More extreme weather means more gale winds and super-high wave swells. 

Photo by Josh Adams-Ford on Unsplash

The shipping containers pose several problems outside of leeching dangerous and toxic chemicals into our already poisoned oceans. The big metal containers don’t immediately sink. There are air pockets trapped inside that keep the boxes just under the water’s surface for some time. There’s no way for other ships to spot them or avoid them, and they can lead to a domino effect of nautical catastrophe. 

Some naval fleets are changing their cargo ships’ design in response to more tumultuous seas to come. 2020 was one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, and things aren’t going to improve in the coming year. Preventing our planet’s premature death hasn’t been enough to convince some people to take climate change seriously. Still, maybe a growing impact on global commerce will snap some sense into world leaders.