Structural failure of container vessel MSC Napoli and subsequent beaching

Location: Structural failure in the English Channel. Beaching at Branscombe Bay, England.

Accident Investigation Report 9/2008

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken, and recommendations:

NapoliReport.pdf (3,001.45 kb)

Annexes Part 1 (3,864.05 kb)

Annexes Part 2 (1,144.97 kb)


During the morning of 18 January 2007, when on passage in the English Channel, the 4419 TEU container ship MSC Napoli encountered heavy seas, causing the ship to pitch heavily. The ship was making good a speed of 11 knots and the height of the waves was up to 9m. At about 1105, the vessel suffered a catastrophic hull failure in way of the engine room. The master quickly assessed the seriousness of the situation and decided to abandon ship. Following the broadcast of a distress call at 1125, the 26 crew abandoned the vessel in an enclosed lifeboat. They were later recovered by two Royal Navy helicopters. There were no injuries.

Safety issues

  • the vessel’s hull did not have sufficient buckling strength in way of the engine roo

  • the classification rules applicable at the time of the vessel’s construction did not require buckling strength calculations to be undertaken beyond the vessel’s amidships area

  • there was no, or insufficient, safety margin between the hull’s design loading and its ultimate strength

  • the load on the hull was likely to have been increased by whipping effect

  • the ship’s speed was not reduced sufficiently in the heavy seas


Recommendations have been made to the International Association of Classification Societies, which are intended to increase the requirements for container ship design, consolidate current research into whipping effect, and to initiate research into the development and use of technological aids for measuring hull stresses on container ships. Recommendations have also been made to the International Chamber of Shipping with the aim of promoting best practice within the container ship industry, and to Zodiac Maritime Agencies, with reference to its safety management system.

This report was published on 22 April 2008.

Updates to this page

Published 23 January 2015