While a recently-published report concluded that unexpectedly extreme weather conditions were to blame for Svendborg Maersk’s loss of more than 500 containers in international waters off France’s Atlantic coast in February, the task of locating where they came to rest below the water has been completed, with the French authorities praising the Danish shipping line for its “exemplary, responsible attitude”.
France gave Maersk until the end of the summer to pinpoint the location of the containers that tumbled overboard, the aim being to produce cartographic data that would help fishermen avoid zones where containers lay and prevent the entanglement of nets.
At the end of July, Maersk chartered a sonar search vessel, the Borda, from French public body Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine.
The vessel scanned the ocean floor for the containers in order to update sea charts, with the fishing community in mind, a Maersk spokesman said. He declined to comment on the costs incurred by Maersk in locating the boxes as it was part of an-going insurance claim.
Around a dozen of the containers were found floating on the surface in the weeks following the incident. These were recovered by French support vessels for which Maersk is said to have been billed €250,000.
A spokesman for France’s State Office for Martime Affairs said the search operation had been completed successfully – the scan revealing some ‘clustering’ of boxes – and fishermen now had assurances on where they lay.
“From the outset of what was a major shipping incident, Maersk’s attitude has been exemplary,” he said. “They were only too ready to meet requests and portrayed a very responsible attitude throughout.”
Over 80% of the boxes lost were empties and the remainder contained dry, non-hazardous goods, including cigarettes, many of which were found washed-up along the coastline of south-west England.
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