Many of the goods we buy (and design) travel across the world on container ships, which we've all seen. This is what they look like when things are going right:
However, cargo ship voyages are like Valentine's Day dinners in that they sometimes go catastrophically wrong. (I'm not sure why I reached for the Valentine's Day reference, but I'm not going to backspace over it, so you'd better just deal with it.) Here's what that looks like:
That's the MV Rena, which hit a reef off the coast of New Zealand in 2011 because the captain was reportedly taking an unauthorized shortcut. When it first got stuck, the captain was probably like "Ah, this isn't so bad:"
But things shortly went sideways, literally:
I'm amazed that some of those containers are still hanging on at all.
Unfortunately the ship happened to be carrying oil, diesel and hazardous materials, among other things. It dumped hundreds of tons of oil into the water, devastating local wildlife and making it New Zealand's worst maritime disaster. Salvagers struggled to remove what containers they could and tried to pump as much of the remaining oil out of the ship as possible.
They did a good job getting many of the containers off...
...but eventually the ship broke in two and the stern sank completely.
Salvaging operations continued for two and a half years.
This here is the MOL Comfort, fully laden with goods.
In 2013, for reasons that have yet to be uncovered, the ship began to crack in the middle as it was traveling off the coast of Yemen:
It took a week to get oceangoing tugboats to the site. Amazingly, they were able to begin towing the bow half of the ship back to shore.
The stern half, however, sank.
Unfortunately, during the towing operation a fire broke out onboard of the bow half, again with unknown causes:
A special firefighting Indian Coast Guard unit was dispatched to fight the fire…
…but ultimately, the bow half sank too.
Sometimes cargo ships can lose containers even without a major structural failure. This is the M/V Bai Chay Bridge.
In 2012 it was hit by a Category 4 "super typhoon" while en route from California to Japan. Some of the containers were reportedly improperly lashed, leading to this:
Running into a patch of bad weather in the Pacific isn't unusual. It's also happened to the CSAV Shenzhen…
…and the Ital Florida.
Luckily these latter three ships were able to make it safely to port. For those that are not so lucky and wind up at the bottom, extreme engineering solutions are sometimes needed to salvage the wrecks. Here's one of the crazier solutions we've seen in this area.
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amazing how the corners twistlocks hold the containers together, most of the time.