The MSC Zoe encountered heavy weather whilst en route from Sines, Portugal to Bremerhaven, Germany on 2 January 2019. As a result, an unknown number of containers were damaged on board and about 280 container were lost in German waters near Borkum island. The further circumstances, which have contributed to the collapse of a number of container stacks, in particular the condition of the midship area from where the container fell overboard, need to be investigated.

The vessel arrived at Bremerhaven on 03 January 2019 and was secured at the Eurogate Container Terminal, where initial inspections of the vessel and its cargo have been taking place. As per first information the MSC Zoe remained relatively undamaged, whereas part the cargo on board suffered damages to a significant extent.

On 04 January 2019, the discharge operations have commenced and maintained on an ‘around the clock basis’. However, due to prevailing weather conditions as well as the precarious position of the damaged containers, the operations have been discontinued several times and progressing at a slow pace.

The major focus of the actual operation is on the containers which remained in good condition and were bound for discharge at Bremerhaven anyway. Depending on the length of the operation, it will be seen whether the vessel will sail on with the remaining unaffected container still on board or whether they will be discharged and transhipped to their final destination.

There may be uncertainty as well about how to handle the damaged containers on board, which require special equipment and operational procedures to ensure safety of the parties involved as well as the cargo itself. Accordingly, it is entirely unclear at the moment when this part of the discharge operation will be started and when it will be finalised.

As no one but authorities and vessel interests are allowed to board the ship, it is difficult to oversee the situation on site to predict the way forward and to get any detailed information about the cargo.

Taking the current situation into account it is only safe to say that the discharge and salvage operation on board will still take weeks, followed by the corresponding survey arrangements.

As per latest information, it could be the case that the MSC Zoe has taken a southern course, which is only about 16 nm off Borkum and adjacent islands with a maximum water depth of 20 m, to take a short cut and allegedly save time. The Ministry responsible for the infrastructure and water management in The Hague confirmed to the media that the Prosecutor General’s Office has initiated investigation on that issue.

In addition, thorough investigation in respect of the concerned liabilities as well as of the recovery prospects are carried out by us (which we consider very promising) and we are looking forward to receive your instructions in this regard.