ONE Apus container loss shows need for ‘real-time information

Date: Friday, December 18, 2020
Source: Freight Waves

It’s been more than two weeks since 1,816 containers were lost from the deck of the ONE Apus en route to Long Beach, California. The public has been told the contents of only 64 of those containers.

Long an advocate for maritime industry digitization, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said the ONE Apus incident illustrates the need for container visibility.

“This is another prime example of why we must improve in this industry,” Seroka said in response to a question from American Shipper during a press conference on November port volumes Tuesday.

“The advocate in me says having the ability to track every container, its whereabouts along the path and even at rest is very important. The opponents say once a container is on a ship, that’s it for 10 to 14 days, it’s not moving until it gets to its next port of call for the move and movements beyond,” he said.

But sometimes containers don’t stay put. In the case of the ONE Apus, 1,816 containers went overboard about 1,600 nautical miles northwest of Hawaii when the vessel reportedly sailed into a severe storm cell at about 11:15 p.m. Nov. 30. Thousands more containers appeared damaged as the Apus arrived at the Port of Kobe in Japan on Dec. 8.

“A situation like this would give real-time information, allowing companies that are importing those containers to make quick decisions. And it’s not only the execution management that digitization brings, but it’s the exception management,” Seroka said.

Japan-headquartered Ocean Network Express has only identified the contents of 64 containers because they were labeled as carrying dangerous goods. ONE said on Dec. 7 that 54 containers held fireworks, eight had batteries and two contained liquid ethanol.

The Port of LA is working “to raise the bar in sharing information,” Seroka said, noting there must be guarantees private information will not be shared and an environment in which “good stewards of data rise to the top.”

The port’s efforts in information sharing to provide improved container visibility include the Port Optimizer, The Signal and the Return Signal. The Port Optimizer has been around for more than five years. The Signal and Return Signal were launched this fall in part to help deal with port congestion brought on by record-breaking import volumes following coronavirus-caused factory shutdowns in China.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in March named Seroka the city’s first chief logistics officer and tasked him with getting personal protective equipment into the hands of front-line workers. The challenges he faced prompted Seroka to kick off American Shipper’s Global Trade Tech summit in September by calling for “bold steps in the digital transformation of the maritime industry.”

ONE has not issued a statement regarding the Apus since last Friday, when it confirmed “that operations for the safe removal of the displaced containers on deck have started after permission to proceed was granted by the Japanese Coast Guard.”

The statement, ONE’s seventh since Dec. 1, said the “careful removal of the dislodged units under a schedule formulated by stowage planners is expected to take over a month with safety the Number 1priority. Once unloaded, each will be assessed, and when the discharge of cargo is complete, there will be a full assessment of the vessel and subsequent repairs.”

ONE, with shipowner Chidori Ship Holding and manager NYK Shipmanagement, added that because the “discharge operation and investigation are expected to take some time, further updates will only be provided on an as-needed basis.”

Cargo owners undoubtedly need to know if their goods are floating in the Pacific, damaged inside a container aboard the Apus, or untouched in a stack and ready to one day head back to the United States for distribution.

The ONE Apus, with a carrying capacity of 14,052 twenty-foot equivalent units, sailed from Yantian, China, bound for the Port of Long Beach. Neither ONE nor the Port of Long Beach has identified the owners of the cargo on board.

But Henry Byers, FreightWaves’ maritime market expert, had data that showed the top importers using ONE as their ocean carrier into the Port of Long Beach in the 30 days prior to the accident were Flexport International, MOL Consolidation, Topocean Consolidation, UPS Ocean Freight Services, DHL Global Forwarding, Kuehne + Nagel and C.H. Robinson.

None of the 1,816 containers lost overboard have been reported as recovered.


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