Update: Air Crews Search for Containers Lost off North Carolina

When a cargo ship traveling south from Norfolk to lost more than 70 containers off the Outer Banks during Winter Storm Riley, the Coast Guard warned mariners right away of the navigational hazard these containers could pose.

maersk shanghai ship.jpg

Now, NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency have joined the Coast Guard in trying to track down each of the containers before someone hits one that is partially submerged.

Since Bay Bulletin's original story, the cargo ship Maersk Shanghai confirmed it was 76 shipping containers, one of which was carrying 5,900 pounds of sulfuric acid. The containers went overboard about 17 miles off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina on Sunday, March 4.

So far, the Coast Guard says there are no reports of sulfuric acid containers washing up on shore. Coast Guard aircraft crews and aircraft crews contracted by the shipping company have flown through the night searching for any visible containers. So far they have found nine on the surface.

The Coast Guard has designated the floating containers as hazards to navigation.  The owners of Maersk Shanghai contracted a salvage company to place tracking devices and lights on the containers. Maersk also plans to use side-scan sonar to find the submerged containers.

The Coast Guard continues to issue Safety Marine Information Broadcasts to tell boaters where the known containers are.

“Our main priority is ensuring the safety of navigation in the area and addressing potential environmental impacts,” said Coast Guard Capt. Bion Stewart, commanding officer, Sector North Carolina. 

Mariners are reminded to notify the Coast Guard if they spot the containers, at 910-362-4015 or on VHF-FM channel 16.

Megan Viviano