A total of 281 containers fell overboard from the large container ship MSC Zoe, 192,237gt, in bad weather off the Dutch coast as she headed towards Bremerhaven on Jan 2.
The container ship, operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), of Switzerland, continued to Bremerhaven where some of the remaining containers on board were unloaded. For the passage into port, the ship was accompanied by the port’s pollution control ship Neuwerk, 3,422gt.
The Dutch Coast Guard said the following day that at least 21 containers had washed ashore on the beaches of Vlieland, Terschelling and Ameland and there were many containers still in the water.
On the beaches, locals began helping to recover some of the cargo that had fallen out of containers that had been opened by the weather conditions, but later, on Jan 3, the Coast Guard warned that people should not help with any clear-up as there were three containers that could contain hazardous materials. On Jan 3, the German Central Command for Marine Engineering (Havariekommando) said six of the containers have been spotted in German waters.
The MSC appointed the salvage company Ardent Global to co-ordinate the search for containers at sea and beach cleanup operations. Under the salvage plan, three specialised ships with sonar were being used to the search for containers at sea and the Dutch Coast Guard also used an aircraft in the search. However, the search was being hampered by the continuing bad weather.
On Jan 5, the MSC said it will fully pay for the North Sea clean-up, and the following day it reported that 238 of the 281 containers that fell overboard had been located.
That day, the Dutch public works and water management department Rijkswaterstaat said the majority of containers had been found at two locations, spread over a length of 23 miles above the Dutch towns and villages of Terschelling, Schiermonnikoog and east of this line.
The Rijkswaterstaat said two of the containers hold hazardous substances, one has 280 bags of 25g of dibenzoyl peroxide each, while the other was loaded with 1,400kg of lithium batteries.