12 of 21 shipping containers still missing

More than half of the containers that fell from a Young Brothers barge north of Hilo last week remain unaccounted for and another sunk as the investigation into the incident continues.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported Tuesday that 12 of the 21 shipping containers that fell from the Ho‘omaka Hou while en route to Hilo Harbor from Honolulu last week have still not been located.

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Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir with the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District’s public affairs office said no more containers have been located since nine were found adrift in the sea the day of the incident. Only eight of those containers have been salvaged: one of them sank in the waters north of Hilo.

Another container washed ashore at Onomea Beach, but it was sent back out to sea and towed to Hilo Harbor, where it was pulled from the water along with the other seven accounted for containers.

As for the barge itself, the remaining cargo on the Ho‘omaka Hou has since been removed and the vessel was reloaded last week, Muir said. It returned to Honolulu during the weekend without incident, but Young Brothers and the Coast Guard will assess possible damage to the barge.

The cause of the incident, however, remains under investigation, Muir said.

Young Brothers did not confirm the contents of the sunken container Tuesday nor did it respond to questions about the cost of retrieving the eight containers so far. The shipping company’s only response Tuesday was a statement by Young Brothers director of terminal operations Chris Martin.

“We continue to work closely with state and federal authorities to determine the cause of the first loss of containers overboard in more than 20 years, and we look forward to sharing more information at the conclusion of the investigation,” Martin’s statement read. “Young Brothers remains committed to connecting our island communities with reliable service and moving what matters most to Hawaii as safely as possible.”

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Muir said the National Transportation Safety Board is also involved in the investigation, adding that the NTSB’s involvement is “routine” for incidents like this. The NTSB and Coast Guard will publish their findings independently of each other.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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