Containers washed up on the north sea: can you keep flotsam and jetsam??

Containers washed up on the north sea: can you keep flotsam and jetsam??

Through the Storm low "Zeetje a container ship lost around 300 containers in the North Sea. The containers initially sit at sea, now their contents are gradually washing up on Dutch shores. This arouses the interest of "treasure hunters".

The "MSC Zoe" was on its way from Antwerp in Belgium to Bremerhaven. At sea, the ship was then caught by several squalls.

The incident now raises several questions: How can containers detach from a freighter so seemingly easily?? Do such accidents happen more often? And is it permissible to keep goods that are washed up on the coast as flotsam??

Who bears the consequences for an accident like that of the "MSC Zoe"??

In principle, the shipping company is responsible for the transport. According to the German Shipowners' Association, shipping companies are insured for such cases.

Uwe Schieder of the German Insurance Association (GDV) points out that there are different options for coverage: A goods insurance, a container insurance and a liability insurance. The latter comes into play when damage is caused to third parties.

Am I allowed to keep washed up goods as flotsam or jetsam?

This is regulated differently around the world. In Germany, for example, you can't keep the goods, but in the Netherlands it's not a crime to take washed-up goods with you. Only closed containers may not be opened.

The current case of the "MSC Zoe" could be interesting for treasure hunters. On the Dutch island of Terschelling, for example, "My little Pony" toy figures were washed up, as a photo from the islands' tourist board shows:

Anyone who takes washed up items in this country risks being charged with misappropriation of found property. According to the German Civil Code, lost property worth more than ten euros must be reported to the owner or the competent authority.

How are containers secured on board ships?

International guidelines apply to securing containers. To prevent containers from slipping on board, they are fixed to the bottom of the ship or to the hatch cover and connected to each other. Below deck they are pushed into cell frames, the containers fit exactly into the structure.

On deck, containers are secured with handball-sized latches – each container has a device at its four corners that connects it to the ship or other containers.

According to the German Shipowners' Association, national authorities regularly check whether the prescribed standards are being met. In the case of the "MSC Zoe", it still has to be clarified how the accident occurred. One thing is certain: Toxins also washed up after shipwreck.

What are the technical options for searching for containers floating in the sea?

It is possible to equip containers with GPS technology, but it is not standard. Helicopters and ships are among those used in the search for cargo lost at sea.

Have there already been similar incidents of this magnitude?

According to the German Shipowners' Association it is rare for a ship to lose hundreds of containers. The German Insurance Association (GDV) sees it similarly. "It happens very, very rarely," says transport insurance expert at GDV, Uwe Schieder.

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