The M/S ONE APUS incident 1 December 2020 (and why it will happen again)
Anders Björkman of Heiwa Co - European Agency for Safety at Sea!


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M/S ONE Apus arriving Kobe after incident

M/S ONE Apus stern after incident

On the 1st December 2020 the Japanese flagged containership, 'ONE APUS' (IMO No 9806079) - registered owner 'Chidori Ship Holding LLC', manager 'NYK Shipmanagement' - lost a number of containers as a result of severe weather conditions on the night of Monday 30th November 2020 at 2315LT approximately 1600 NM North West of Hawaii, USA. It has been suggested that 1,816 FEUs were lost overboard, including 64 dangerous goods (DG) boxes. Out of the 22 bays on deck, only six appear to have survived intact. With 20 rows per bay and with stack heights of six to eight tiers, this would equate to approximately 2,250 FEUs potentially impacted. Nobody got killed! The ship didn't sink! It was undamaged. Only some deck cargo was affected.

So what happened and why will it happen again?

  • Vessel Name: ONE APUS
  • IMO n°: 9806079
  • Type: Container Ship
  • Flag: Japan
  • Year of Build: 2019
  • Gross Tonnage: 146694
  • DWT: 138611
  • Capacity TEU 14,052

I don't know the details of how the containers were loaded, lashed and secured on deck but I assume it was according to latest technology using manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic twist locks (a big business today), lashing rods, wires and turnbuckles, etc. I assume the twistlocks and lashing equipment belonged to the ship/line and that the ship/line owner had informed the port how to use it. The ship's crew just looked on.

In my opinion, awaiting underwriters' incident/damage reports, the ship must, at excessive speed, have unexpectedly, suddenly impacted/slammed into/collided with only one big, steep wave. That wave was not seen from the bridge, as you can only see the horizon from the bridge in daylight and at night you see nothing. The half mile distance in front of the bow is obscured by deck cargo.

The effect of such a sudden wave impact slam was experienced all over the ship and must have been heard as one big BANG and felt as an collision with an ice berg (it has never happened) but then it was too late. The impact force at the bow passed longitudinally through the flexible hull as a travelling wave and resulted in strong vibrations and shakings vertically and transversly like playing a violin with peak accelerations in all directions. So lowest container layer twist locks failed and/or sheared off (if properly in place) and lashing rods were pulled apart in many locations, the containers came lose and some bottom containers were crushed and the stacks fell sideways. Interestingly the foremost stacks on the focs'le and the stacks in front of the deck house and the funnel casing remained in position - maybe the hull is stiffer there and doesn't vibrate so much.

So the proximate cause of the incident, at a first look, was simply crew negligence! The crew was sleeping at the switches! No lookout for steep waves at too high speed in severe weather at night. The crew? Five deck officers, five engineers, four/five seamen, four/five motormen and a cook. Not even a cat! The crew works, sleeps and takes it easy 3x8 hours/day. All is automatic aboard and ashore on computer screens today except checks on deck to look at containers or in the engine room to look for pipe leaks. The trips are two/three weeks at sea + 2 days in ports during a couple of months. Quite booring. Does the creaw really check the loading of containers on deck in port and all 1000's of twistlocks? Only problem is periods of severe weather at sea. What to do?

The only solution is of course to slow down, change course and to take it easy. I don't think rolling played a part. All ships roll and it is a much slower process. But will it be done? I doubt it. The schedules must be kept. Containers cannot be delayed.

But maybe the containers were not loaded properly on deck and the twistlocks were not properly fitted? Will we ever know?

Some 'experts' suggest the damages will cost >US$ 200 millions! I don"t agree as usual. It is quite easy for small teams of port workers to deactivate the twistlocks, lift off the affected containers and return them to the cargo owners and collect the twistlocks. And then the ship can start again! Everything happens at sea and I have seen a lot. But nothing like this. Luckily nobody got killed.

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