A 366-meter container ship belonging to MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has suffered a breakdown in the Pacific Ocean after reporting a fuel quality problem and the vessel is being towed to Japan, MSC has confirmed in an advisory to its customers.
MSC reports that the MSC Ariene, deployed on its Pearl service, “had to stop at sea” on April 2 due to an engine problem stemming from poor fuel quality as the vessel was en route from Xiamen, China, to Los Angeles, California. The vessel has been diverted to Wakayama, Japan for repairs.
MSC’s 2M Alliance partner Maersk reports that a tug with spare parts has arrived at the vessel and is towing it to Wakayama, where it is expected to arrive Wednesday.
The 13,000-TEU MSC Ariane was built in 2012 and is registered in Panama. The vessel was expected to dock in Los Angeles on April 24, however, the schedule is now expected to be adjusted due to repairs and congestion at the San Pedro Bay port complex, which comprises the major U.S. container ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The incident comes just weeks after the Maersk Eureka also broke down and drifted in the Pacific Ocean.
Maersk previously reported that the MV Maersk Eureka was forced to shut down its main engine on March 12 to replace a damaged fuel pump while en route to Long Beach. Although the vessel was initially able to continue its voyage, the main engine had to be shut down again on March 14, leaving the 366-meter vessel adrift in the North Pacific, some 650 miles off Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
A tug with spare parts and a team of engineers were dispatched from Dutch Harbor to assist. Maersk reported on March 31 that repairs to the Maersk Eureka had been completed at sea and that the vessel was undergoing sea trials before resuming its voyage to Long Beach. A revised schedule for its arrival at Long Beach has not yet been released.
The two incidents add to a growing list of problems affecting large containerships in the transpacific trade since late last year, mostly related to major cargo losses at sea. The incidents come amid an unprecedented pandemic-driven cargo boom that has set all kinds of monthly cargo records at U.S. ports on both coasts.
Fuel quality concerns have also been heightened, at least since early 2020, due to new International Maritime Organization (known as IMO 2020) regulations limiting the maximum allowable sulfur content in marine fuels globally, although few (if any) incidents have been officially linked to the changes and the transition has been deemed “extremely smooth.”