By Michael Gougis
An order of 2,000 Motool Slacker sag measuring units is missing. The units may be bobbing in the Pacific, or they may be crushed under damaged shipping containers on a massive cargo vessel at berth in Japan, or they may be perfectly fine but unreachable for the moment.
In any case, the November sea catastrophe – when a containerized cargo ship lost nearly 1,900 containers in a storm off of Hawaii – has battered the small company, best known for a remarkably clever digital tool that has revolutionized the process of setting the sag on a motorcycle.
“It’s a brutal situation. I’ve had a tough couple of months,” says John Casebeer, founder and owner of Motool.
On November 30, the vessel ONE Apus, a Bird-class container ship nearly 1,200 feet long and with a capacity of 14,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) suffered a stack collapse when it encountered high seas en route from Yantian, China to the Port of Long Beach. Experts say the rough seas sent the ship into what is known as parametric rolling, where the vessel is pitched into dramatic lean angles of up to 30 degrees in a matter of seconds.
This motion places extreme stress on the mechanisms by which containers stacked on the deck are secured, and can cause the stack retention mechanisms to snap and the stack of containers to collapse.
ONE Apus lost 1,816 containers, and several others were askew on the deck of the ship when it reached port in Kobe, Japan.
And that’s where Motool’s limbo began.
The order of 2,000 Slacker units takes up only part of a single container, Casebeer said. And the shipping company has not yet released information as to which containers are missing, which are damaged, and which are still on the ship, he said.
“I still don’t know if I lost my stuff or not,” Casebeer said. “I just know it was on the deck. “They’re being real tight-lipped. My stuff might be there. It might be in the Pacific. This is the largest maritime loss of cargo in history when they didn’t lose the ship.”
The shipping claims specialist firm W K Webster posted on its website that even figuring out what is still aboard the Apus is still not clear.
*As at Wednesday, 3rd February, 638 containers have been discharged from the ONE APUS at the port of Kobe, Japan,” the company said in its latest update. “Progress is still relatively slow although the rate of discharge does appear to be increasing slightly as the most severely damaged containers are discharged, leaving others that are more easily handled to be removed. It is still likely to be a few more weeks before discharge is completed and necessary repairs made to the vessel.”
Out of inventory, Casebeer had to scramble. He contacted his factory in the Guangdong Province and placed another order for 720 of the units. And then, to meet his growing backlog, he had to have these airfreighted at six to eight times the cost of ocean shipping, he said.
As the world starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and learns to live and operate in the current health environment, goods are pouring out of China and other countries in the Asian/Pacific Rim, straining supply lines like never before. Even airfreight was delayed, Casebeer said.
Finally, the air shipment of 720 Slackers arrived and Casebeer got them into his possession on Tuesday. He shipped 590 units in three days, he said.
It is unclear what will happen in regards to the other 2,000 units, Casebeer says. He has an agent in Japan working on the situation. Containers are being removed from the ship one by one and their contents inventoried and inspected. But Casebeer does not expect the situation to be resolved any time soon.
“It has been a wild ride,” Casebeer says.
To see video of the ONE Apus before and after the disaster, go HERE.