Notable incidents

Mid-October 2023

Mississippi River water level approaches historic lows - 36 groundings around Memphis, Tennessee

Grain exports from the US were put at risk after an important sector of the lower Mississippi River dropped to within inches of its lowest-ever water level. It is expected to remain near historic lows – coinciding with the start of the busiest part of the US grain export season.
The carriage of export-bound corn and soybean barges over recent weeks has been reduced after loads were lightened. The number of barges that can be hauled in one go has also been reduced, as the low waters make the channels narrower and bends harder to negotiate safely without groundings.
Portions of the river have been closed 22 times since September 1st, either for dredging or to remove barges that have run aground. At least 36 groundings have been reported, the US Coast Guard said. The affected area is around Memphis, Tennessee, where the reading fell to minus 10.62ft, just above its all-time low of minus 10.81ft on October 21st 2022.
The river is expected to remain below the minus 10ft mark into at least mid-October, according to the latest forecast. That will result in a bottleneck between the heavy production areas in the Midwest and Gulf Coast terminals, where around 60% of US grain exports exit the country.


Mid- October 2023 - Shipping problems as situation worsens in Amazon region’s rivers
The ongoing drought in the Amazon region risked disruption of grain exports from nearby farm states. On the Madeira, barge routes used by grain firms such as Cargill, Bunge and Amaggi, were open, but loads on barges were reduced to avoid grounding. AP Moller-Maersk warned customers on Wednesday October 12th that in the area of Manaus – the largest Amazonian city – navigation had become "unfeasible" due to there being shallow water at critical points. 
Maersk said in a separate statement that the severe drought had affected 60 of the 62 municipalities in Amazonas state, causing cabotage service to and from Manaus to be suspended temporarily. The volume of rainfall in the northern Amazon has been well below the historical average and river levels have fallen dramatically. Maersk's local operator Alianca Navegacao e Logística was diverting Manaus traffic to alternative ports, including Vila do Conde and Pecem.

Dec 4th 2023 - Amazon drought blamed for grounding of Greek MR tanker in Brazil

Chemical/oil products tanker Minerva Rita (IMO 9305867) grounded in shallow waters in the Amazon due to drought, according to the Brazilian authorities.
The vessel ran aground about 30nm downstream from Manaus on December 4th  while sailing downstream in ballast. It was reported to have hit a rock and developed a portside list.
No casualties were reported and measures to gauge the potential environmental damage were underway after the vessel, which was carrying 18,000 m³ of Naphtha and 8,499 m³ of gasoline, suffered hull damage. It had been travelling to a refinery in Itacoatiara. The vessel reportedly took a wrong turn and passed through a shallow area due to the drought in the Guajará Canal, in the Tabocal region.
Navigation in the region was not affected and there were no immediate plans to remove the vessel. The Tabocal region, has been badly affected by the current historic drought, with around 20 large ships still waiting for floodwaters to set sail.

There are regular casualties in ice areas as these two spreadsheets demonstrate.

Increased Risk of Grounding in Barranquilla, Colombia


View previous incidents.

Member's Area Responsbilities

Area 1 Arctic Matt Wells
Area 2 Northern Seas Matt Wells
Area 3 Baltic Sarah Wilson
Area 4 Greenland Katie Costello
Area 5 N America Andrew Davies
Area 6 N America (W) Matt Gysbers
Area 7 S Ocean Daisy-May White
Area 8 Kerguelen Daisy-May White
Area 9 East Asia Matt Gysbers
Northern Sea Route (NSR)

Download an ABS Advisory document on the NSR

Members are regularly approached and asked about voyages to this region where there is little to no salvage capability. Information has improved with the advent of the Arctic Portal but underwriters approached to write a risk in these waters may wish to satisfy themselves on the following points - surveyors are unlikely to be available:

  • suitability of vessel for the intended voyage

  • crewing arrangements including key personnel’s levels of experience in Arctic navigation

  • proposed route and voyage dates

  • ice breaker and escort arrangements

  • access to accurate and up to date weather information and weather routing proposals and suitable ports of refuge

  • bunkering arrangements.

Permission needs to be obtained from the appropriate marine authority, appropriate navigation rules need to be complied with and it can be helpful to have a Russian speaking deck officer on board.

Although their 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment was some while ago, the Arctic Council's points remain valid:

  • significant portions of the primary Arctic shipping routes do not have adequate charts to support safe navigation

  • this is most critical in the Canadian Archipelago and the Beaufort Sea and possibly other areas in the Arctic

  • furthermore there are serious limitations to radio and satellite communications for voice or data transmission in the Arctic because there is not complete satellite coverage of the region.

They also noted stated that: 

  • no research and none of the simulations have indicated that the winter sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean will disappear during this is highly plausible there will be greater marine access and longer seasons of navigation except perhaps during winter, but not necessarily less difficult ice conditions for marine operations

  • most shipping in the Arctic today is destinational

  • the majority of cruise ships observed recently in Arctic waters are not purpose-built for Arctic operations