Maersk-Chartered Boxship Cuts Greek Minesweeper in Half

Kallisto, seen here as HMS Berkeley (Royal Navy file image)

Published Oct 27, 2020 6:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday morning, the container ship Maersk Launceston and the Hellenic Navy minesweeper Kallisto collided off Piraeus, resulting in heavy damage to the minesweeper and two injuries amongst her crew. 

In a statement, the Hellenic Navy said that the casualty occurred at about 0730 hours. At that time, AIS data shows that Maersk Launceston was making 16.5 knots and headed due south in the Saronic Gulf; shortly after she slowed to five knots, turned to starboard and returned to a point on her previous trackline.

The operator of Maersk Launceston, German shipowner J.T.T. Essberger, said in a statement that there were no injuries aboard the containership. 

"The vessel has activated its emergency response procedures and the crew has been participating in the rescue operation for the seafarers of the naval vessel," J.T.T. Essberger said. "Immediately after the incident all relevant authorities have been notified  The exact cause of the incident is yet unknown."

Though Maersk does not operate Maersk Launceston, it said that it is aware of the casualty and has been in touch to offer its support to Essberger.

The Kallisto (ex name HMS Berkeley) is a former Royal Navy Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessel built in 1987. Like many minesweepers, she was constructed of nonmetallic material (fiberglass) in order to reduce her magnetic signature. 

Photos taken just after the collision appear to show that the 50,000 dwt Launceston struck Kallisto amidships on the port side and cut her in half. Kallisto's back deck and stern drifted away and sank, and the surviving forward half of the ship took on a heavy list.

As of Tuesday evening, Maersk Launceston was moored alongside at Piraeus.