Grounds for concern as another boxship blocks major European port

Adam Foster
Adam Foster

15 August 2017


It has now been refloated but the *CSCL Jupiter* was just the latest grounding of a large box ship which must have all sectors of the industry wondering just how big a mistake has been made and how long it will go on. Following what has been reported by some sources as a steering failure, the 13,300teu vessel grounded in the River Scheldt on Monday morning this week and effectively block the port of Antwerp for the whole day. The ship was eventually refloated on the high tide and is now being surveyed for potential damage. Some 18 months ago, a larger CSCL vessel the *CSCL Indian Ocean* of 19,000teu was involved in a similar incident in Hamburg and several smaller boxships have grounded in the Suez Canal and in Italy in the intervening period. These are not the largest boxships in operation and in fact with the exception of the *CSCL Indian Ocean* all the ships mentioned are dwarfed by the latest generation of ultra large container ships. For ships to ground is not something new that has just begun happening but the frequency with which it is happening to large container vessels is disconcerting. Many observers have commented on how the economies of scale attaching to large boxships is more than offset by the increased costs connected with purchase of new port cranes and the dredging and maintenance of channels needed to keep them moving. If the problems resulting from a ground was confined to the vessel involved, some might say that is bad enough but when a whole port and all the ships calling there are inconvenienced as are the shippers and receivers of cargoes on those vessels who have concerns of their own meeting contractual commitments then more thought must be given to the desirability of these large vessels. It has been pointed out on numerous occasions by cargo interests that the schedule reliability has not improved in any case. Leaving the operational problems aside, the cause behind the groundings must also be disconcerting. The two CSCL vessels apparently suffered technical faults but are draughts and passage plans perhaps at fault or is wrong information being fed into the ECDIS and other systems? (Our guide on ECDIS is here) It has been frequently said that these big boxships are an expensive accident waiting to happen. There have been enough warnings so perhaps the critcis will soon be proved right.