NTSB: Improper stacking led to containers falling overboard

  • Courtesy of KAI KAHELE/File A stack of shipping containers fell over on the Young Brothers barge Ho‘omaka Hou on June 22, 2020.

Improper stacking caused 21 shipping containers aboard a Young Brothers vessel headed to Hilo Harbor to fall overboard off the East Hawaii coast last June, the National Transportation Safety Board determined.

In the early morning hours of June 22, 2020, the Ho‘omaka Hou — a Young Brothers cargo barge towed by the Hoku Loa — lost 21 shipping containers off the coast of Pepeekeo Point after 50 40-foot containers stacked on the after deck of the barge toppled during transport.


In a marine accident brief released earlier this month, the NTSB said Young Brothers did not provide the barge team with an initial load plan.

There also were inadequate procedures for monitoring the weight of the container stacks, leading to “reverse stratification” and making them more vulnerable to increased forces while on the move, the agency said.

At about midnight June 22, a nearby weather buoy recorded “steep” seas with wave heights of about 6 feet and by 2 a.m. a change in course was completed.

“It is likely that when the barge turned about 30 degrees to a new south-southeasterly course about (2 a.m.), the dynamic rolling from the sea on the vessel’s beam resulted in forces on the container stacks with the greatest reverse stratification so that, unchecked by the lashings used solely on the outboard stacks of containers and the stacking cones used as the primary securing point between containers, the containers tipped over and caused the row to collapse,” the report reads.

According to the NTSB, an assist tug approached the barge as it entered Hilo Harbor about 4 a.m. and the captain of the Hoku Loa was informed that containers on the stern of the barge had toppled over.

“This was the first time any of the Hoku Loa crew realized the collapse had occurred,” the report states.

Eight containers were later found adrift 3 miles off Pepeekeo Point and recovered, while 13 were not recovered.

According to the NTSB report, the lost or damaged cargo was estimated to cost more than $1.5 million.

Additionally, it cost $104,885 to repair the recovered containers and replace those that were lost and $25,000 to repair the barge.

“Young Brothers is proud of our record of safely and reliably transporting what matters most to Hawaii,” said Chris Martin, director of terminal operations for Young Brothers. “We have implemented enhanced safety measures since our first loss of containers overboard in more than 20 years. We are carefully reviewing the report and considering the appropriate next steps.”


According to the company, Young Brothers last year proactively added additional safety protocols increasing lashing arrangements that secure containers in place while in transit.

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