Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it believes the breakup of the container ship MOL Comfort
last year was not the result of the ship’s design or construction.
asked MHI, whose Nagasaki shipyard built the MOL Comfort
, to comment on a lawsuit
filed against it by the owner of the ship, Mitsui O.S.K. Line, which is seeking ¥13.8 billion ($135 million) in connection with the ship casualty.
The 8,000-TEU MOL Comfort
split in two and sank off the coast of Yemen in June as it sailed from Singapore to Jeddah. There were no injuries to the crew, but both halves of the ship sank and all cargo was lost.
MHI said an Interim Report
issued in December by the Committee on Large Container Ship Safety of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism reported that conducted hull strength simulations confirmed that the container ship “would not fracture under the calculated wave load in the estimated sea state condition and cargo load based on the container stowage plan at the time of the accident, even assuming the initial structural deformations beyond those found in her sister ships.”
MHI told American Shipper
that it “believes that the ship’s accident was attributed to some reason or reasons other than the hull design or construction: for example, unforeseen effects of the ship’s cargo load caused by overweighed containers and disproportionate loading of them, and/or by problems with respect to safe navigation management at rough sea."
MHI said the MOL Comfort
and its sister ships were designed and constructed in compliance with the specifications provided by MOL, international conventions, requirements of the flag state, "MHI’s most up-to-date knowledge about design and construction acquired up to the time, and the requirements of Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK),” the Japanese classification society.
It added that ClassNK approved the design drawings and that the MOL Comfort
“was accepted in all inspections/surveys during the construction stage.”
The company added, “Accordingly, MHI believes that the ship’s hull structures were not defective and that MHI was not responsible for the accident."
MOL said that MHI neglected to provide a warning despite having found deformities in 2011 on a 2010-built vessel sharing MOL Comfort
’s structural design.
But, MHI said a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident was conducted together with the ship owner (a company different from MOL) and the classification society at the time.
"The result of said investigation was that there had been no problem in hull design or construction and that, rather, what had happened was a special case attributed to operation in very severe sea state condition combined with overloading caused by overweighed containers and disproportionate loading of them," MHI said.
After the MOL Comfort
accident, modifications were made to strengthen the hull structures of sister ships owned by MOL.
MHI said that construction was “carried out upon strong request from MOL as a preventive measure against reoccurrence of such an accident. MHI said it intends to demand payment from MOL for the costs incurred in carrying out the construction work within the framework of the present legal proceedings.
MHI said it “intends to pursue its claim that the claims and demands from the plaintiff are unjustified, with fair explanations on the facts relating to the MOL Comfort
’s accident through legal proceeding."
Asked if MHI is building container ships differently in light of the MOL Comfort
casualty, a spokesman for the shipbuilder said, “Since the accident, MHI has not built any container ships other than a sister ship of MOL Comfort
, which was already under construction at that time and delivered to MOL after the accident."
In December, the council of the International Association of Classification Societies said it had decided to “take a proactive approach to structural safety of container ships" and "expand the scope of current IACS unified requirements for post-Panamax container ships."
Asked to comment on the IACS plans, MHI said it “always welcomes relevant moves to enhance safety.”