Fireworks, other goods lost at sea after storm throttles Long Beach-bound container ship

A Port of Long Beach-bound cargo ship suffered catastrophic damage due to severe weather recently—resulting in reportedly the largest weather-related cargo loss in history for a single containership.

The ONE Apus, a 1,200-foot-long Japanese-flagged container ship built in 2019, was crossing the Pacific Ocean from Yantian, China, near Hong Kong, en-route to Long Beach when it encountered a storm cell on Nov. 30.

The ship was hit by gale-force winds and large swells approximately 1,600 miles northwest of Hawaii, with weather maps showing the area was experiencing wave heights in excess of 50-feet at the time.

Over 1,800 containers were swept overboard, including 64 dangerous goods containers, consisting of 54 with fireworks, eight containing batteries and two with liquid ethanol.

The ship reversed course, heading back across the Pacific, arriving in Kobe, Japan on Dec. 7. A company spokesman confirmed that all the crew were safe and uninjured in the incident.

Incidents of containers lost at sea or swept overboard are rare.

According to the World Shipping Council, in 2019, containerships moved over 226 million containers around the globe, containing about $4 trillion worth of cargo on over 6,000 ships.

Over the past 12 years, the council estimates that an average of 1,382 containers are lost overboard from ships annually, not counting for rare, significant incidents like the ONE Apus, which are separately recorded and reported when 50 or more containers are lost in a single event.

The ONE Apus is operated by the Ocean Network Express, or ONE. The company was established in 2017 through the merger of three major Japanese shipping companies. With around 240 vessels in its fleet, ONE ranks as the 6th largest container shipping company in the world.

The company’s ships are easy to distinguish in the Port of Long Beach by distinctive magenta-hued hulls and shipping containers.

In a statement, ONE said a full safety inspection of the vessel and its remaining cargo would take place “with the assistance of local emergency services to ensure that there is no threat to people or the environment posed by the dislodged and damaged containers that remain on deck.”

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