Sinking of MOL Comfort

MOL Comfort broke into two pieces on 17 June 2013 due to unclear reasons when sailing from Singapore to Saudi Arabia. The aft part of the vessel drifted for 10 days before sinking off the Indian Ocean with 1,700 containers and 1,500 tons of fuel. As for the fore part, it was towed by a tug boat until the cable broke beginning of July and a fire started that finally sunk this part of the container ship to the bottom of the sea on 11 July.The fact that these two parts of the ship continued floating for several weeks with the cargoes still on board is already a surprise for experts. But, what is even more surprising is that this container ship of 316 meters was only built recently, in 2008, by Mitsubishi Heavy industries in Nagasaki, Japan. Nothing like this has ever occurred and no one would imagine such outcome was possible, even theoretically.

The causes of the accident are still unclear and it may be difficult for experts to solve this mystery now that the ship, together with the majority of its cargo, remains more than 3,000 meters below the sea.

A combination of factors could explain it, like basic design and building faults of the ship, serious misbalance of containers weight due to false weight declaration or faulty ballasting of the container ship. These causes combined together with a very agitated sea could lead to this unexpected event.
Of course, the loss will be very important for the insurance industry, especially for the cargo freight insurance, where margin is quite low. Most probably, each insurers involved in the ship’s cargo insurance have limited ways to sue the ship owner or the ship building company, as it is unlikely that experts can attribute the cause of the loss to one single event.

However, it is most likely that this spectacular accident will push the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to systematically weigh containers before loading them on board.

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