Ship loses more than 500 containers in heavy seas

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On any day, between 5 million and 6 million containers are on the high seas, carrying everything from potato chips to refrigerators. But not all of them make it to their destination, as the crew of the Svendborg Maersk have just found out.

Their Danish-flagged ship was in the Bay of Biscay last week as hurricane-force winds battered the Atlantic coast of Europe. Amid waves of 30 feet and winds of 60 knots, the Svendborg began losing containers off northern France. After the ship arrived in the Spanish port of Malaga this week, Maersk discovered that about 520 containers were unaccounted for. Stacks of others had collapsed.

It’s the biggest recorded loss of containers overboard in a single incident.

As repairs are made to the Svendborg in Malaga, Palle Laursen, Maersk’s vice president of operations, says the company is examining its procedures “to avoid similar incidents in the future.” It said 85% of the lost containers were empty and others included such dry goods as frozen meat. None contained dangerous goods. Maersk is now contacting customers to tell them that their shipments are at the bottom of the ocean.