The North Sea is a cold, unforgiving stretch of water located smack in the middle of Europe. It’s a major shipping route, but unfortunately, even the best-planned shipping does not always go according to plan. Witness the sinking of the Baltic Ace, a ship hauling nearly 1500 cars — mostly Mitsubishi vehicles — from Japan and Thailand to Finland. It’s a tragedy that shows the very real risks sailors take to make sure your car is sitting there on the lot.
We don’t often think about the logistics that go into getting cars from one country to another, but that’s often done by boat, and traveling on a boat is risky to say the least. This situation emphasizes just how risky: The Baltic Ace ran into the container ship, the Corvus J., and quickly sank from the damage.
Tallying the Damage
Of the 24 sailors on board, 13 were rescued, and five bodies were recovered. The remaining six men will not be searched for, as there’s little chance they’ve survived the freezing waters and harsh conditions.
Before we continue, we’d just like to say our hearts go out to their families and friends during this difficult time.
The human cost alone emphasizes the risks to life and limb, which is why shipping is carefully planned, and accidents like this are rare. It’s also an enormous financial cost whenever a ship full of cars is sunk.
First of all, the cars themselves are, obviously, completely flooded and therefore not worth the money to pull out of the ocean to try and sell. Mitsubishi, preferring to focus on the sailors, spent all of two sentences on the vehicles in their statement, simply stating that “the cars are lost.” Hopefully, they had some sort of auto insurance.
What Happened to All the Cars?
Even if it weren’t utterly disrespectful to the families, there would be the fact that the cars themselves were completely ruined. Water in the engine can cause serious problems, wet upholstery can mold quickly, rust sets in due to the corrosive power of salt water… in essence, the cars themselves are worthless. It’s estimated that the overall cost in lost goods alone will run roughly $2.1 million dollars, before factoring in any extras or costs, such as paying back customers for prepurchased goods.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the cars or the Baltic Ace will sit at the bottom of the ocean. Depending on what was put in those cars, such as oil or anti-freeze, they could be a serious environmental risk to surrounding wildlife and the general ocean ecosystem. As an investigation into the accident is ongoing, it may be necessary to raise the ship to examine it and see if there’s any evidence on board.
Similarly, there’s a distinct possibility that those six men are down there in that ship, and if possible, their bodies should be returned to their families.
As we said, we don’t often think about the process of getting a new car to its car lot, but it’s a process that can be frought with danger and risk to others. This is a reminder that there are people risking a lot more than a little aggravation to make sure we get the car we want, and we should carry it with us, for the sake of the men of the Baltic Ace.