Dutch Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen is going to do her best to better protect the Wadden area against shipping accidents such as the one involving the container ship MSC Zoe. However, she cannot yet promise that the southern shipping route, which sails close to the Wadden islands, will be closed in bad weather.
MSC Zoe lost 342 containers in a severe storm on the night of 1 to 2 January 2019. These caused heavy pollution on the beaches in the Wadden Sea area. The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) has stated after investigation that such large vessels should not sail so close to the Wadden Islands in the event of a north-western storm.
Van Nieuwenhuizen speaks of a ‘valuable’ report that can help prevent such incidents in the future. ‘I endorse the conclusions and the outlined challenges posed by the scaling-up of container shipping, such as the safe lashing of containers.’
IMO procedure may take years
The House of Representatives has been pressing for the closure of the southern shipping route in heavy weather for a long time. According to Van Nieuwenhuizen, however, this cannot be done just like that, because this is an international shipping route. In order to be able to restrict transit, a request must be submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), together with Germany and Denmark. That procedure is set in motion, but can take years.
At the request of the House of Representatives, Van Nieuwenhuizen will examine whether existing legislation can be changed in such a way that intervention in dangerous situations will become possible at an earlier stage. A broad majority of the House of Representatives believes that maximum use should be made of the scope offered by international treaties. After the summer recess of the House of Representatives, the Minister will return to this matter.
Van Nieuwenhuizen takes over the DSB’s advice that crews should be better informed about the risks of both the northern and southern Wadden routes. She will also have additional research carried out into those risks. At the Minister’s request, the Coastguard has been giving crews urgent advice since the end of last year to avoid the southern route in the event of a storm.
Picture by Netherlands Coastguard.