Cargo ship’s lost containers wash up on Dutch islands after massive spill
Up to 270 shipping containers have fallen from one of the world’s largest cargo ships into the North Sea, attracting treasure hunters and clean-up volunteers alike to beaches in the Netherlands.
- Some containers are thought to contain toxic chemicals
- Scavengers flocked to the jetsam, which includes shoes and flat-screen TVs
- Dutch soldiers have been called in to help clean up the mess from beaches
The loss of the containers from the freighter MSC Zoe, some of them thought to contain toxic chemicals, is one of the biggest incidents of its kind, the Dutch Defence Ministry said.
It was unclear how many of the containers sank to the sea bottom and how many were still floating and could pose a hazard to marine traffic or beach scavengers, who turned out in response to reports of the cargo spill.
A 25-kilogram bag of organic peroxide, a strong bleaching agent that can cause injury on contact with skin, was swept ashore, among dozens of containers from the ship to have appeared on or near the Dutch islands of Terschelling, Vlieland, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.
A volunteer helps with the clean-up operation on a Dutch island where debris has begun washing up. (Fred Prak via AP)
“The expectation is that more things may wash up on beaches tonight,” Defence Ministry spokesman Sjaak Van Elten said.
Dutch soldiers were summoned to help clean up the mess.
Emergency services warned volunteers not to touch the containers, but scavengers and treasure-hunters also flocked to the jetsam, which included shoes, dolls and flat-screen TVs.
The peroxide was removed by emergency crews without incident, Friesland provincial authorities said.
But the Dutch Coast Guard said attempts to locate floating containers were being, “hindered by multiple sport planes that have come to look … We ask them to remain out of the area of this air space to prevent dangerous situations”.
Authorities in Germany and the Netherlands are searching for the up to 270 shipping containers that were lost at sea. (Kustwacht Nederland via AP)
German authorities are leading the investigation into what caused the accident, which occurred in German waters near the island of Borkum.
A Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) statement said the containers were lost overboard during “heavy weather”, and a salvage company had been hired to assist in the clean-up and search for missing items.
MSC said it was taking the incident “very seriously, both in terms of the impact of such accidents on the natural environment and in terms of any damage to customers’ cargo”.
MSC Zoe is now at port in Bremerhaven, Germany.