The probable causes of the MOL Comfort accident with respect to vibration

Please Note that this is completely my determination. The actual cause may not be this. 


 On The 17 June 2013 a modern 8,110 TEU container ship the MOL Comfort built in

2008 by MHI Nagasaki Shipyard split into two halves while on transit from Singapore to

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). All 26 crew, consisting of 11 Russians, 1 Ukrainian and 14 Filipinos,

escaped the sinking ship on two life rafts and a lifeboat. The stern section containing

approximately 1,500tonnes of fuel oil sank on 27 June and the fore part which was being towed

by a salvage company sank on 11 July 2013 having been partly destroyed by fire. [1]

The real reason of the incident is still unknown. In this report, I would like to give my opinion

regarding the cause of the incident.

Figure 1 : MOL Comfort Incident

MOL Comfort Vessel Particulars

Table – 1: Vessel Particulars [2]

Cause of the Incident (Schematic)

Cause of the Incident (Detailed Description)

    On June 17, 2013 MOL Comfort was on transit from Singapore to Jeddah (Saudi
Arabia). The real reason of the MOL Comfort incident is still unknown. However, I would like
to provide my opinion on the incident. I think, during transit it was experiencing hogging and
sagging. Which led the vessel to face lateral and vertical bending loads. As a result, hydroelastic
effects were induced. Hydroelasticity is the interaction of hydrodynamic and elastic
structural forces which led to vibration of floating and submerged ocean structures/vessels. It
is believed that the hydro-elastic effects and the effect of hull girder flexibility are capable of
significantly amplifying the hull girder stresses and thus contribute to fatigue damage as well
as to the extreme hull girder loading in container ships. The hull girder vibrations due to hydroelastic
effects is capable of doubling the stress response amidships in some cases – also in the
extreme loading cases. However, due to hydro-elastic effects whipping motion loads were
generated. Whipping is the vibration of hull girders that occurs when the bow breaks free of
the water and then re-enters. The whipping motion increased the stress on the girders. As a
result, hull fracture originated from the bottom shell plates in MOL Comfort’s midship section.


The MOL Comfort incident is one of the most important cases in Naval Architecture. The MOL
Comfort and her sister vessels were simply under engineered by naval architects that didn’t fully
account for enormous additional loads which were being placed on the ship. This incident helped IACS
to implement additional rules for container ships over 8,000 TEU. The final report issued by Japan
about the MOL Comfort break up concludes that the sea loads experienced by the vessel at the time of the casualty exceeded hull girder ultimate strength. [3] Since the MOL Comfort sinking, all of the sister
vessels to the MOL Comfort have been retrofitted with additional structural steel, but certainly other
ships in that size range have not. Considering the step changes being made in container ship design,
logic would dictate that additional study and consideration be taken when designing and operating such
vessels, including the installation of strain gauges to properly measure what is happening inside the


[1] RINA
[2] Wikipedia – MOL Comfort
[3] The Maritime Executive - IACS Acts on MOL Comfort Report
[4] Mike Povello - Update – Important Clues to MOL Comfort’s Demise



  1. A very delightful article that you have shared here. Your blog is a valuable and engaging article for us, and also I will share it with my companions who need this info,Vessel management and tracking Thankful to you for sharing an article like this.

Previous Post Next Post