Report highlights risks for container ships in Wadden Sea

The Hague, The Netherlands (AP) - A Dutch security guard said on Thursday that it was "undesirable" for large container ships to use a shipping route through a flat, environmentally sensitive sea off the coast of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark in the event of severe storms in the northwest the increased risk of losing your cargo.
The conclusion came in a Dutch security agency report on the loss of hundreds of containers from a ship, MSC Zoe, on New Year's Day 2019, which resulted in tons of cargo being washed up on nearby beaches.
"The lessons learned from this accident must lead to better risk management of container transport on shipping routes," the report said.
The ship with more than 8,000 containers sailed north of an island chain in the Wadden Sea on a route from the Portuguese port of Sines to Bremerhaven when it was hit by waves that were blown up by a northwest storm. According to the Safety Board report, 342 containers and 3,000 tons of cargo were lost overboard.
There are two shipping routes north of the Wadden Islands - a southern passage that is flatter and closer to the islands, and a northern route. The Zoe used the south route.
"The Dutch security authority concludes that due to the value of the Wadden area, it is undesirable for these container ships to choose the southern shipping route behind the Wadden coast during a northwest storm."
In the days and weeks after the incident, deposits such as shoes, televisions, light bulbs and packaging materials were washed up on normally untouched beaches. The Dutch government sent forces to the region to help with the cleanup, and a salvage ship fished sunken containers from the ocean floor.
When they were hit by the waves from northwestern storms in the Wadden Sea, "large, wide container ships make extreme rolling movements," the board said. On the flat southern shipping route, there is a risk that ships will land and waves will be pushed up, which places an extreme burden on the lashing systems used to hold containers on board.
The Safety Board issued a number of recommendations, including that the governments of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark work together to make a proposal to the International Maritime Organization to protect the environmentally sensitive mudflats.
"The aim of this proposal should be to minimize the loss of containers north of the Wadden Islands and to protect the Wadden area," says the Dutch report. "This may include measures for (a certain category of) container ships and, if necessary, a change in the two shipping routes north of the Wadden Islands."
Bernd-Carsten Hiebing, legislator of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party in Lower Saxony, emphasized in the report the continuing dangers of shipping. However, he rejected the opposition Greens' call for a ban on "mega-container ships" and said this would not help improve safety for people and the environment.
Instead, it is better to think more carefully about which routes can be used with which ship types and classes. He also supported stricter rules for securing cargo and using location transmitters for dangerous cargo containers.
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AP author Frank Jordans from Berlin contributed to this report.

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