UAE expats lose hope as belongings confirmed lost in dramatic ship collision

Families unsure if insurers will pay out and who will be held responsible for Karachi port incident

The Tolten, operated by Hapag-Lloyd, lost about 20 containers when it collided with another vessel in Karachi.   

Expat families who shipped their belongings home in containers have been told they were lost when the freighter collided with another vessel last month.

About twenty steel containers plunged into the water in Karachi port when the 300-metre Tolten crashed into another ship in dramatic scenes.

The accident happened on March 19 on a scheduled stop at South Asia Pakistan Terminals. It had left Dubai on March 13 headed for Felixstowe in the UK.

Briton Richard Zeverona, a former aerospace manager for Honeywell who lived in Victory Heights in Sports City, said he lost family heirlooms and his father-in-law's ashes that were stored in one of the containers lost at sea.

Mr Zeverona, who was moving back home to Liverpool with his wife and two young children, is angry as he said he had arranged for his items to be shipped back to the UK weeks before they were eventually loaded onto the Tolten.

He claims the removal company delayed loading his items onto a shipping vessel and should be held liable for his losses.

“The plan was to move our stuff back and live sparsely for several weeks in Dubai so we would arrive back in the UK in March with all our possessions, like the baby’s cot and beds,” he said.

“We were sleeping in the floor on mattresses and had very few possessions in the last few weeks in the UAE to ensure everything could be moved in as we had planned in mid-March.

“Once we returned to the UK, I contacted Acorn Movers LLC on March 10 asking for an ETA on the shipment and was told everything was still in the warehouse.

“I couldn’t believe it.”

Mr Zeverona thought he had made the perfect plan to minimise his young family’s disruption during the move, but was later told his containers may be lost at sea, weeks after the accident had taken place on March 19.

“Acorn said the reason they didn’t ship in January was because I had ‘verbally’ asked for ‘free storage’ until I decided to ship, and they were waiting for the word from me, but that makes no sense,” Mr Zeverona said.

“I have asked for compensation and a refund on the service that I paid for and wasn’t completed, but I’ve been ignored."

Containers lie in the water in Karachi port after a collision on March 19
Containers lie in the water in Karachi port after a collision on March 19

Mr Zeverona, who has since had to replace all his furniture, paid Acorn Movers LLC Dh22,837 to move him from Dubai to the UK, including insurance of Dh2,362.

He is now taking legal advice about how to proceed in a compensation claim, and is awaiting to hear if his insurers will pay-out.

Kevin and Lyn Keith were also caught up in the accident. The couple were moving from Palm Jumeirah to Brighton after 11 years in the UAE, and also used Acorn Movers to handle their relocation.

“We had seen the incident in the vessel in the news, but had not taken much notice,” said Mr Keith, who worked as a manager for a construction company.

“We paid Acorn Dh7,500 for the move, and had insurance for total losses of Dh110,000 – but we’ve not heard if the insurers will settle the claim or how long it will take.

“Acorn took a long time to respond to my emails, and they took a month to let us know our container had been lost.

“They had also given us the wrong tracking details to say our container was on another vessel. It was a total shock to discover our stuff was on board.”


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Photographs, presents from Mrs Keith’s school where she worked, four guitars and a valuable painting were the biggest losses.

A spokesman for Acorn Movers said the freight forwarders were not at fault for an incident at sea, and should not be held accountable.

“The majority of our clients and of other forwarders appreciate there is nothing we could have done to avoid the accident at sea, despite the difficulties they have been presented with,” said the spokesman.

“There are a small minority of clients who are holding forwarders accountable; a sentiment which we understand, albeit clearly no forwarder had any role to play in this unfortunate accident.

“It is a rare and isolated incident which freight forwarders have no control over, but information has to be better flowing from Hapag-Lloyd and its agents to keep all informed of developments.

“Sadly, despite advising all clients regarding the importance of taking out insurance, many choose to take the risk of not insuring shipments considering these are isolated incidents.

“Those who do insure often take out very limited covers with underwriters’ terms, conditions and omissions.”

Up to ten families from Dubai are understood to have lost items on board the Tolten, and several moving companies.

The vessel’s German operator, Hapag-Lloyd AG, said investigations were ongoing and affected cargo was being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“Damaged cargo will be delivered to the customer if operational where possible,” said Tim Seifert, director of corporate communications at Hapag-Lloyd AG.

“In the meantime we’ve sent out customer letters, informed them accordingly and recommended to them to contact their local Hapag-Lloyd Office.

“We furthermore suggested to our customers to contact their insurance company if their cargo is affected by this incident.

“Unaffected cargo will either be shipped to the final destination in the normal cause of business or loaded into a new container and then be shipped to the final destination.”