Since the arrival of today’s far larger, termed Triple-E ocean container vessels, industry supply chains have been dealing with the overall effects on existing major ports.

These past few days, there has been a new twist.  One of the largest container ships, the 13000 foot long vessel Indian Ocean, operated by China Shipping Container Lines has run aground on the Elbe River near the major Port of Hamburg.

Vessels such as the Indian Ocean, spanning the length of the Empire State Building and transporting upwards of 20,000 containers with a single sailing were introduced without, as Supply Chain Matters has pointed out in previous commentaries, consideration on the impacts to port infrastructures, unloading and loading operations, and overall port throughput.  In reality, stepped-up efficiency on the high seas has to translate to equivalent efficiencies in waterways and port infrastructure. Labor unions associated with dockworkers have chaffed at the impacts that larger vessels are having on needs for increased port automation in unloading and loading such vessels while governmental agencies continue to deal with the increased port and waterway investment costs.

Since Wednesday of last week, multiple unsuccessful efforts have been made to free this vessel off a shoal. Up to seven tug boats have simultaneously tried to free the vessel with no success, despite German efficiency. A posting appearing on the SPLASH24/7 web site provides an account related to recovery efforts as well as some video.

This vessel was traveling from the U.K. Port of Felixstowe to Hamburg when the grounding occurred. Some reports indicate that the vessel incurred a failure in its steering gear and propulsion system. Thus far, the shipping line has declined comment on the incident.

Maritime emergency teams are now undertaking efforts in offloading of unnecessary fuel and other efforts to lighten the vessel along with dredging the adjacent waterway to ease recovery efforts. Meanwhile local German officials are fielding cries to ban such large ships from the Port of Hamburg.

Another attempt to free the vessels is scheduled tomorrow (Tuesday) at the next full moon high tide cycle.

We trust that the current efforts to free this massive vessel will be successful before authorities have to resort to actually unloading individual containers in the middle of the Elbe River. That step would surely set off more significant industry alarm bells.

This is yet another reminder for both the new challenges that the shipping industry has introduced and added risks for industry supply chains in anticipating containers arrive in an efficient and on-time manner. Bigger translates to larger scope, far more efficiency and needs for added safety and redundancy in control processes.