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Overboard With Dr. Beach

Feature Date: November, 2004

Event Date: 30 October 2004

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 A 2004 Countryman & McDaniel

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On The Scene In The United Kingdom

M/V Xin Qing Dao

Lost Containers & The Sea


The Flotsam Work of "Dr. Beach"

A Request For YOUR Help


30 October 2004

A Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender

The Time: Morning

The Date: Saturday 30 October 2004

The Place: Port of Felixstowe, United Kingdom

M/V Xin Qing Dao In Better Days - With A Full Load

M/V Xin Qing Dao - 5,600 TEU Class

Built - 2003

Type: - Container

Flag: - China

Overall Length - 279.90 meters

Beam - 40.30 meters

Draught - 14.00 meters

Gross Tonnage - 68,000t

Registered Deadweight - 33,000 t

Service Speed - 26 Knots

Container Capacity - 5,618 TEU

Reefer Plugs: - 610

Call Sign: - BPAR

IMO No.: - 9270452

Building: - Hudong Shipbldg., Shanghai/China

Owner: - China Shipping Container Lines, Shanghai, China

Last Port: - Malta (Valetta)

Next Port: - Hamburg

5,600 TEU Class Vessels


M/V Xin Yan Tian

M/V Xin Pu Dong,

M/V Xin Da Lian,

M/V Xin Qing Dao

Xin Tian Jin

M/V Xin Ning Bo

M/V Xin Lian Yun Gang

M/V Xin Yan Tian

M/V CSCL Shanghai

M/V CSCL Seattle

PROLOG TO DISASTER - On Sun. Oct. 19 2004, The Cargo Letter broadcast the following news story:
The Cargo Letter>> 66,433gt, China Shipping Uk Ltd. 280m, container M/V Xin Qing Dao, Malta (Valetta) for Felixstowe -- Storm Force 11 , 30 meter seas & 30 degree (very severe) rolling -- 31 laden 40' containers lost overboard & another 29 damaged off Brittany, night of Oct. 27, 2004. (Sun. Oct. 31 2004)
M/V Xin Qing Dao reaches Port of Felixstowe on the morning of October 30 2004 -- there has been damage resulting from a storm on the night of October 27.
M/V Xin Qing Dao had survived a rare Beaufort Scale #11 storm off Brittany -- with exceptionally high waves to 30 meters (90 feet). The sea was completely covered with long white patches of foam lying in the direction of winds to 63 knots. The unexpected can always be expected in such seas. Seamanship saved the vessel.

M/V Xin Qing Dao was saved -- but 31 laden 40' containers were lost overboard & another 29 containers were severely damaged.

These 60 lost or severely damaged 40 fooot containers were laden with everything from computers to tennis shoes -- each container with a value ranging from some US$20,000 up to the US$Millions! This loss/damage to 60, 40ft containers has yet to be calculated -- but expect a BIG number, with each container coming fully equipped with it's own maritime lawyer -- to plead the issue of whether either "fault" or "a peril of the sea" is to blame!

It is estimated that over 10,000 ocean containers are lost each year over the side in the world ocean trades -- the result of high seas perils, improper stow, fire & even pirates.

The yearly financial loss due to ocean shipping container misfortune has not been calculated -- but the estimates are staggering -- in the US$ Billions.

Here (above) the photo shows the empty cell guides from which the aft containers have been torn to the sea.

Why Does This Happen?

Courtesy of Vero Marine


The graphic above demonstrates the 6, seperate force directions which constantly work to stress "On Deck" stowed containers -- all such forces being varied by changing weather conditions & vessel movements -- so as to multiply & alter the force dynamics. Given these variables, there will from time to time be conditions which cause the container stacks to fail. Then again, other failures result from rusted securing mechanisms or poor stow. Such are the issues maritime lawyers fight about. Such are the "THE" issues about "On Deck" stowed containers.

Whatever the analysis, upwards of 10,000 containers stowed with general merchandise -- meet a sad end end each year. Many spill their cargo into the ocean -- either by storm or resulting from poor supply chain practices.


An 8-foot by 40-foot container (2.4-meter by 12.2-meter), which can carry up to 58,000 pounds (26,000 kilos) of cargo, might hold 10,000 shoes, 17,000 hockey gloves, or a million pieces of Lego play pieces.

A great friend of The Cargo Letter is Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, known to his pals as "Dr. Beach." Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his partners at Evans & Hamilton, Inc., a Seattle firm, who design & manufacture instruments that measure ocean currents. Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer considers these "over-side" container losses & tracks the result in terms of "lost cargo drift."

Lots of Cool Stuff Gets Lost at Sea

If you didn't land a pair of Nikes in 1990, when 80,000 Nikes tumbled into the Pacific Ocean, don't despair. Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer says beachcombers may still find good-as-new1999 Nike Cross Trainers along shores of Washington & Oregon & Puget Sound beaches. Some Nikes drifted into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in recent years. Only trouble is, beachcombers will have to find the mates, because Nike didn't tie the laces together.

The sneakers were lost at sea when container M/V P&O Nedlloyd Auckland encountered a hurricane mid-Pacific. Heavy rolling threw a dozen 40ft. containers overboard, two of which laden with Nike shoes.

Pronunciation: 'flät-sam

Function: noun

Etymology: Anglo-French floteson, from Old French floter to float, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English flotian to float, flota ship

Date: circa 1607

1 : floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly : floating debris. Technically, flotsam is cargo or wreckage floating on the surface of the sea, while jetsam is cargo that has been thrown overboard (jettisoned) or washed up on the beach. Ligan (or lagan) designates goods that are sunk in the sea & have a buoy or floating object attached to them as a mark of ownership or in order that they may be found again. Such goods found by other persons must be returned to the owner, while flotsam and jetsam must be returned only if the owner makes a proper claim.

2 a : a floating population (as of emigrants or castaways) b : an accumulation of miscellaneous or unimportant stuff

3: flotsam in German is Strandgut -- flotsam in Italian is Relitti -- flotsam in Swedish is Vrakgods, Strandfynd

Beach Junk Serves as Ready-Made Markers

Until 1990, Ebbesmeyer dropped buoys, drift cards, and markers to sea to track current flows without giving much thought to what was already adrift.

But when his mom quizzed him about where beach junk comes from, he realized that the ocean was filled with ready-made markers whose course he could plot from ship to shore.

***Over the years, he's become the big Kahuna of beachcombers with a Web site, a newsletter, and a penchant for zipping around the country to attend beachcomber conferences.

Dr. Ebbesmeyer prowls beaches for shoes, plastic toys, glass floats & tropical seeds.

Tall, with a raft of white hair and a salty beard, Ebbesmeyer could easily pass for a beach bum who traded his suit and tie for a straw-hat, a zinc oxide stripe, and a pair of flip-flops. Far from being a curio, his hobby gives clues to the ocean's highway of currents.

Shipping companies keep meticulous records. A ship's captain is required to note where a container went overboard.

If a Nike shoe washes onto a local beach, check the serial number on the insole, he said, and then trace its route from the point where it went AWOL. Proof that even a floating shoe leaves a footprint.

Based on his knowledge of ocean currents, Ebbesmeyer can predict when and where the goods will eventually turn up.

Millions of Legos plastic pieces that spilled overboard in three containers in the Atlantic a few years ago are expected to drift north into the Arctic Ocean and then through the Northeast Passage. In a few more years, they are expected to travel south toward the 49th state, Alaska. Their expected arrival time on Alaskan beaches is 2012 and on Washington beaches in 2020, Ebbesmeyer said.

The coastline and inlet beaches of California, Oregon, & Washington are well-known destinations for floating goods. In Puget Sound the one percent rule applies, Ebbesmeyer said. About 1% of whatever is spilled or floats into the Strait of Juan de Fuca will reach inland beaches.

"The oil companies don't like me saying this, but if a million gallons of oil spill in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, one percent&emdash;10,000 gallons&emdash;will show up in Everett and Puget Sound."

In 1990, 80,000 pairs of Nikes in 8 containers jumped ship during a storm in the mid-Pacific. Ten years later, some are still circumnavigating the Earth like miniature Magellans.

Shoes Can Float for Ten Years

A pair of athletic shoes can float for 10 years, Dr. Ebbesmeyer said.

"They're still wearable even after three years at sea," he said. "A teenager will wear out a pair of Nikes in 6 months, proving that we're harder on shoes than the ocean."

Every beach is different, depending on the current. Items that wash up in Edmonds may not necessarily be found in Everett.

"They're like restaurants&emdash;some serve Thai food, some Indian or Chinese food. Some beaches are known for their glass or driftwood or artifacts."

The Cargo Letter>> March 2003

***Free Shoes ....... as thousands of Nike basketball shoes are drifting through the Pacific toward Alaska after spilling from a container ship off N. California. Our pal Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer is an oceanographer who tracks sneakers, toys & other flotsam across the sea. He says there's a hitch to finding free shoes -- Nike didn't tie the laces & beachcombers may be challenged to find mates. But he says the effort is worth it because the shoes have only been adrift a few months. A beachcomber told Ebbesmeyer about the shoe spill after finding 2 new blue & white EZW men's shoes washed up near Queets on Washington's Olympic Peninsula in Jan. Unfortunately, they were 2 left foot shoes in size 10 and a half & 8 and a half. Ebbesmeyer believes cargo lost Dec. 15th during storm off Cape Mendocino, including 3 x 40ft containers each carrying 5,500 shoes. Vessel identity pending.

In Edmonds, Washington, beach ranger Owen Caddy is used to finding the bright orange drift cards released by Ebbesmeyer's firm as part of the Puget Sound currents study.

And Caddy once assembled a little collection of his own.

"When I was up in Alaska a few years ago, we were picking up little rubber duckies off the beach," Caddy said.

In Everett, beachcombers have found beach glass, bottles and dishware dating from the 1800s. The spot where the Snohomish River drains into Puget Sound has proved an archaeologist's dream.

When the river cuts into its banks during the flood season, it sometimes washes out Indian artifacts, tools, and arrowheads.

"Five-thousand-year-old baskets have turned up at the mouth of the Snohomish. If you find one of those, call the Burke Museum," Ebbesmeyer advised.

Not everyone turns up treasures, but there are plenty of collectibles out there.

"Someone asked me if a plane full of hockey players had crashed. They were finding hockey gloves all over the beach."

Ebbesmeyer discovered that two 20-foot by 40-foot (6.1-meter by 12.2-meter) containers of hockey gloves, chest protectors, and shin guards had fallen overboard in the middle of the Pacific in 1994.

Manufactured items, glass, and sneakers are relative newcomers to the ocean's bounty; Mother Nature's spawn has been washing ashore for millions of years.

Sea beans, a tropical seed, can stay afloat for 30 years. They bob across the Pacific from Southeast Asia. They can be found on Edmonds and Mukilteo beaches, and despite the lengthy saltwater immersion, some will still sprout.

"But you don't want to do that," Ebbesmeyer said. "They're a tropical jungle vine, which grows to two feet (60 centimeters) in diameter&emdash;think of Jack-in-the-Beanstalk.

"The bad news is that they'll envelop your house. The good news is they can't stand any frost."

Hamburger beans, which resemble miniature Big Macs, can sometimes be found on local beaches. A tropical seed, they drift across the Pacific. Despite their appetizing appearance, "you don't want to eat them."

The beans are full of L-Dopamine, the chemical compound used to treat patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, and which woke actor Robert De Niro from a catatonic state in the movie Awakenings. "We think it's one of the bean's defenses against rodents," Ebbesmeyer said.

As for the manufactured junk floating in the ocean, it's not all a waste or a wash. Those Nike shoes, for instance, they're ambassadors of goodwill, a floating thrift store.

"Poor people around the world know, if you need a pair of shoes you go to the beach."

Some of These Famous Items Are Still Afloat

Or Are Still Washing Ashore.

-1990: 80,000 Nike tennis shoes in the mid-North Pacific Ocean.

-1991: 414 drums of arsenic, used in insecticides, overboard near New York. There was enough arsenic to produce 170 million aspirin-size tablets, capable of killing half the U.S. population. Divers recovered all the drums from seafloor.

-1992: 29,000 bathtub toys (turtles, ducks, beavers, frogs) lost mid-Pacific.

-1994: 20,000 Boltio sandals.

-1994: 34,000 hockey gloves, chest protectors, and shin guards fell off M/V Hyundai Seattle.

-1996: 100,000 rubber sea thongs.

-1997: 500,000 cans of beer fell into the Pacific when a Chinese cargo ship capsized.

-1997: 5 million Lego plastic pieces fell into the Atlantic Ocean when M/V Tokio Express hit a storm.

-1999: Nike Cross Trainers lost along the shores of Washington and Oregon & Puget Sound Beaches from M/V P&O Nedlloyd Auckland.


The Dangers of Mayonnaise

The Cargo Letter>> Jan. 11 2000

***The Dangers of Mayonnaise ...... as a freak accident involving drifting ocean cargo container may have caused British F/V Solway Harvester to sink on Jan. 11 2000 & claim lives of 7 crew. Plastic vats of mayonnaise found near sinking site of the scallop trawler in Irish Sea have raised possibility it rammed into a lost freight container, the Scottish Scallop Assn. said. "There were a lot of mayonnaise bottles found round about scene of the search so possibly they could have come from a breached container," said John Hermse, the group's secretary. "If one of those containers was floating semi-submerged & boat rolled over the top of it, then the ship would immediately lose bouyancy, turn over & sink. So it's certaintly a theory to pursue," he added. Marine investigators said 3 ocean containers were lost overboard in the Irish Sea from a cargo vessel at the beginning of Nov. and & of them were still missing. But a spokesman for Britain's Maritime & Coastguard Agency said it was unlikely a container could stay afloat for that long. Remains of the 71ft. F/V Harvester were found using sonar, but bad weather has so far prevented marine investigators from starting their probe -- highly unlikely ship the size of F/V Harvester would sink simply due to bad weather. (Tues. 11 Jan. 2000)

The Dangers of a Foating Container
"I saw one. (a floating container)....too late! Back in 1987, while returning to Newport, Rhode Island from Bermuda on my 42' racing sailboat. With a crew of 5, we were screaming along under spinnaker doing about 9 knots and surfing down the face of the waves at close to 12 knots when suddenly, KABOOM. We were stopped short, bounced once again into the unseen "immovable" object, then slid along side of what we could then see, a huge container!

The container was just low enough in the water that the forward part of the hull passed over it, but the keel what what slammed into it. We were not holed, the keel was still on the boat, but the force of the collision sprung the keel bolts and separated the keel from the hull somewhat, thus allowing a prodigious amount of water to come flowing into the boat. Fortunately, the three electric bilge pumps and the one manual pump were able to keep up with the incoming water. There was no way to stem the flow so we just kept up with it.

We retrieved the sails we had quickly doused and proceeded towards Newport with less speed but a greater sense of urgency. Fourteen hours later, we were in the slings at our marina, amazed at the amount of damage done to the keel.

The greatest damage, though, was done to my memory and mind. Ever since, while motoring or sailing offshore, about once or twice an hour, I think about hitting another container. This, as one might suspect, has put a little damper on my boating enjoyment ever since. As far as I am concerned, just ONE lost container was enough to ruin my day!"

 David Heywood-Jones, Naples, Florida


Message in a bottle? Did you know floating items travel up to 10 miles a day in the ocean?

Special Request To YOU From Dr. Beach
Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer Needs Your Help --
Dear McD:

It would be a great help to the cause of understanding our ocean if your readers could send along any information they come across regarding flotsam. Mariners see so much yet so little is reported.

Captains, mates, engineers are a major source which needs to be tapped.

Many throw glass bottles into the sea with messages. Reports of these are vital. And the list goes on.


Curt Ebbesmeyer' Beachcombers' Alert Newsletter - Curt hopes you will E-mail accounts of interesting flotsam to him at his great quarterly newsletter Beachcombers' Alert - concerning all things afloat and beached. You will receive a complimentary copy.

The Dedication of This Feature Is Simple: To The Flotsam!.

It's dangerous out there. While there is that consideration of negligence, absent clear fault, we must remember perils of the sea have always & will always stand from time to time as the sole caue of loss for which transportation companies cannot be held responsible. The sea is too stong.

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs brokerIt's dangerous out there.


China Container Shipping Shipping Lines Co. Ltd. -
China Shipping Container Lines at Felixstowe
Port of Felixstowe

Launches Its 8,500TEU Container Vessel

The Greatest Container Losses Of All Time - these are the grand fathers -

M/V OOCL America

M/V APL China

Lost Ocean Containers -

Beaufort Wind Scale
Beaufort Scale #11 Storm For this M/V Xin Qing Dao voyage:
56-63mph - Violent Storm - Very rarely experienced - accompanied by wide-spread damage.

Collision With A Floating Container - a first hand account

Int'l Ocean Shipping Container Codes - learn the code

Lost Shipping Containers

Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer:

Lost Sea Cargo: Bounty or Junk?

Dr. Curt's Rubber Ducky

Just Ducky

Message In A Bottle - Smithsonian Magazine July 2001

Pacific Toy Spill

Wind Driven Ocean Currents: Shoes, Ships & Rubber Ducks

Curt Ebbesmeyer' Beachcombers' Alert Newsletter - Curt hopes you will E-mail accounts of interesting flotsam to him at his great quarterly newsletter Beachcombers' Alert - concerning all things afloat and beached. You will receive a complimentary copy.

Flotsam World

The Flotsam Font

Global Drift Center

Real Time Sea Drift Tracks

Research Ship Scedules

Vero Marine - the largest commercial marine insurance company, underwriting & settling claims in New Zealand.

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker.  It's dangerous out there.Thanks To Our Contributors For The "Un-Stacked" Feature

Our Valued Contributor for this feature is:
* Anonymous contributor(s) who wish to be anonymous

NOTE: Please Provide Us With Your Additional Information For This Loss.

EDITOR'S NOTE FOR SURVEYORS, ATTORNEYS & MARINE ADJUSTERS: The Internet edition effort of The Cargo Letter now celebrates it's 8th Year of Service -- making us quite senior in this segment of the industry. We once estimated container underway losses at about 1,500 per year. Lloyd's put that figure at about 10,000 earlier this year. Quite obviously, the reporting mechanism for these massive losses is not supported by the lines. News of these events is not posted to the maritime community. Our new project is to call upon you -- those handling the claims -- to let us know of each container loss at sea-- in confidentiality. Many of you survey on behalf of cargo interests with no need for confidentiality. Others work for the lines & need to be protected. As a respected Int'l publication, The Cargo Letter enjoys full press privileges & cannot be forced to disclose our sources of information. No successful attempt has ever been made. If a personal notation for your report is desired -- each contributor will be given a "hot link" to your company Website in each & every report. Please take moment & report your "overside" containers to us. If you do not wish attribution, your entry will be "anonymous." This will will benefit our industry -- for obvious reasons! McD

* NOTE: The Cargo Letter wants you to know that by keeping the identity of our contributors 100% Confidential, you are able to view our continuing series of "Cargo Disasters." Our friends send us materials which benefit the industry. The materials are provided to our news publication with complete and enforceable confidentiality for the sender. In turn, we provide these materials to you.  

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