No prosecution for captain who lost containers over Wadden Islands

The captain of the ship that lost containers north of the Wadden Islands in 2019, goes free. The Public Prosecutor‘s Office (prosecutor’s office) says after investigation that there is no intent or guilt.

The MSC Zoe lost 342 containers on the night of 1 to 2 January 2019 during a storm when it sailed north of Vlieland and Terschelling. Some of the containers could be salvaged, others smashed.

Plastic spheres

On the islands and the mainland, stools, duvets, toy cars and other items were washed up, as well as millions of small plastic balls.

The debris and the environmentally harmful spheres were cleaned up as well as possible by volunteers, fishermen and defence staff. The Kingdom, municipalities and nature managers filed a claim for damages totalling 3.35 million euros to the MSC shipping company.

Initially, it was thought that the Zoe lost 277 containers:

A criminal investigation had to determine whether the master had been guilty of environmental pollution or violated shipping rules.

The state‘s authority did not find any evidence of this, among other things because it was not established that allowed the containers to go overboard. The ship may have hit the seabed, but that’s not enough to prosecute the captain. Nor did he go too hard or too soft or made an irresponsible change of course. The containers were secured according to the regulations.

Given the weather conditions, the captain should have taken a more northern route through deeper water, but he did not violate shipping traffic rules by navigating closer along the Wadden Islands.