On Sunday, March 4, the cargo ship Maersk Shanghai alerted watchstanders at Sector North Carolina’s command center that they lost about 70 cargo containers during a heavy roll. Maersk later confirmed the total number of containers lost overboard was 76 as well as their contents.
Maersk also reported that one of the containers lost at sea was carrying about 5,900 pounds of sulfuric acid. There are no indications any containers of sulfuric acid have surfaced or washed up on shore. No other hazardous materials were reported in the containers.
US Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City crews, Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft crews and aircraft crews contracted by the shipping company have conducted multiple overflights, locating nine containers on the surface. At the time, only two of the nine sighted containers remain floating.
The US Coast Guard has declared the floating containers as hazards to navigation. The owners of Maersk Shanghai contracted a salvage company to place tracking devices and lights on the containers. The US Coast Guard continues to issue Safety Marine Information Broadcasts to inform boaters of the positions of the known containers.
Maersk has also developed a plan to use side-scan sonar to locate the submerged containers to determine their risk to safe navigation and environmental impact. Weather and sea conditions will determine how quickly they are able to effectively survey the area.