In 2012, the global aviation industry transported an estimated $6.4 trillion worth of cargo. On New Year’s Eve, 2018, a massive container ship carrying 3,500 brand new Nissan vehicles caught fire. The Sincerity Ace was headed to Honolulu from Nissan’s home base in Japan when the catastrophic fire broke out. The 21-member crew was forced to abandon ship some 2,000 miles northwest of Hawaii.
Though they were out of helicopter range and the nearest rescue ships were days away, the Coast Guard activated the AMVER (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue) alert which sends signals to nearby ships that help is needed. Despite the fact that the Sincerity Ace had drifted (and continues to drift) out of the shipping lane, five cargo ships responded and were able to save a total of 16 crewmembers; four were found unresponsive among the 15-foot waves and one is still unaccounted for.
“We are thankful for the assistance the crews of these merchant vessels have given us during this event, significantly reducing possible response time,” Lt. Duane Zitta at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center said. “Their quick actions provided for the rescue of 16 members of the crew who would otherwise still be in the water and are continuing to aid us.”
The use of container ships to transport cargo is one of the primary ways countries across the world trade with each other. While it is true that the booming business occurs out in the great blue yonder (a.k.a. the middle of nowhere), the journey’s outcome is rarely so tragic. In fact, it is heavily relied upon: some container ship fleets are able to carry 20 million standard containers, taking products from all over the world to their final destination.
Although it is unsure whether or not Shoei Kisen Kaisha — the company that owns Sincerity Ace — will arrive at the listing ship before it sinks, thereby recovering its extensive cargo in the nick of time, the loss most likely won’t do too much damage. In 2018 alone, 81.5 million cars were projected to be sold; the automotive industry seems to be in good health. And, because cars are dependent on transportation that can tolerate their immense size and weight, so is the ocean cargo industry. The Sincerity Ace is 650 feet long and equipped to carry 6,400 vehicles, but is dwarfed by the world’s largest shipping container: the Hong Kong-registered CSCL-Globe is approximately 1,312 feet long and can carry almost 20,000 standard containers.
Shipping containers are relied upon to transport everything from rubber duckies to trucks; there are 17 million standard shipping containers available across the globe for trade use. Though Nissan is one of the premier car companies in the world, they also understand what is truly important about Sincerity Ace’s tragic incident: they expressly noted that their thoughts “are with the crew members as well as the safety of the rescue teams.”