UPDATE: Contrary to initial reports that the ship sank, the two halves of the MOL Comfort have remained afloat. Tugs have been dispatched to the site.
The container ship MOL Comfort sank today off Yemen after suffering catastrophic hull cracking near amidships. A Coast Guard official was quoted as saying, “The vessel hull broke into two off the Mumbai coast and the crew members were rescued from the ship in two life rafts and a life boat,” a Coast Guard official said. The ship was loaded with 4,500 containers was bound from Singapore to Jeddah. [Updated]
While there has been no determination why the ship’s hull broke, it seems likely that misloaded cargo might be the culprit. When loading a container ship, there is always an imbalance between the weight of the ship and cargo pressing down and the buoyancy of the sea pushing up. Too much weight in the ends can break a ship in half, which is what appears to have happened here.