In 2013 the biggest shipping loss to date occurred on the MOL Comfort. 

MOL Comfort Accident: The Worst Shipping Disaster in History

In 2013 the biggest shipping loss to date occurred on the MOL Comfort.

There is no guaranty that your goods will make it across the ocean when transporting via cargo ship.  This cautionary tale about the MOL Comfort shows that the shipping industry isn’t perfect and there are always unforeseen dangers.

About the MOL Comfort

The MOL Comfort, chartered by Mitsui OSK Lines, was a shipping container operating in the Indian Ocean. The MOL Comfort was one of 12 ships with a similar design able to carry over 8,000 TEU. It was first launched in March of 2008 and was previously named the APL Russia until 2012. In June of 2013, the MOL Comfort was crossing the Indian Ocean, traveling from Singapore to Saudi Arabia along with 7,041 TEU when disaster struck.

The MOL Comfort Incident

On June 17th, 2013, the MOL Comfort was caught in some bad weather 200 miles off the coast of Yemen. Around dawn, the ship suffered a crack at mid-ship and broke in two. The 26 crew members quickly abandoned ship as there was nothing they could do to save the MOL Comfort.

After the ship broke in half, the two parts if the ship stayed afloat with most of the cargo remaining intact.

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Images via gCaptain

The Attempted Salvage

While the two half’s of the Comfort were drifting in the ocean, Smit International, a salvage company was contracted to attempt to rescue the two half’s of the ship and tow them to land.

  • On June 24th, four tugboats arrived at the scene of the break. The boats chose to begin towing the bow towards land.
  • On June 26th, the stern half of the MOL Comfort was reported to be taking in water.
  • On June 27th the stern sank to a depth of 4,000 meters along with 1,700 shipping containers and 1,500 tons of fuel.
  • On July 2nd, the lines connecting the Comfort to tugboats broke but crews were able to reattach the lines.
  • On July 6th, a fire broke out in the rear part of the bow section. There is still no known cause of the devastating fire.
  • On July 10th, over 2,400 containers had been destroyed by the fire.
  • On June 11th the bow section of the MOL Comfort sank in the night to a depth of 3,000 meters along with 1,600 metric tons of fuel oil in the tanks.

The cause of this disaster is still unknown. The sister ships of the MOL Comfort were taken out of operation for a period of time while they were longitudinally strengthened.

The disaster cost insurers somewhere between $300 and $400 million in claims. In 2014 100 companies had taken up lawsuits against MHI (the builder of the ship) claiming that the accident and loss of cargo was caused by a design flaw in the container ship.

The Importance of Marine Cargo Insurance

The story of the MOL Comfort reminds us of the unpredictability of international trade. The ship was a state of the art construction that got caught in a storm typical to overseas transit. Many of the cargo owners on the MOL Comfort were able to recoup the loss of their shipments through marine cargo insurance.

Although it is not necessary to possess marine cargo insurance when shipping goods, it is the only way to protect yourself when your goods are lost to the ocean.

Learn more about Marine Cargo Insurance with a free PDF from Trade Risk Guaranty and make sure you aren't vulnerable to General Average.

All statistics and photos for this story gathered from gCaptain

international tradeMarine Cargo InsuranceMOL ComfortShipping disaster

Chase Samuels • July 17, 2019


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