Tokio Express

Tokio Express was a container ship, built and registered in Hamburg in 1973 for Hapag-Lloyd.[1] In 1984 she was renamed Scandutch Edo before being acquired by Pol Gulf International in 1993 and restored to her original name.[1] In 1997, she was acquired by Westwind International and in 1999, by Falani, before being broken up for scrap in 2000.[1] The name has been used for a newer ship in the Hapag-Lloyd line, launched in 2000.

Name: Tokio Express
Operator: Hapag-Lloyd[1]
Port of registry:  Hamburg[1]
Builder: Blohm + Voss, Hamburg[1]
Yard number: 878[1]
Laid down: 12 January 1971[1]
Launched: 2 November 1972[1]
Completed: 12 April 1973[1]
Identification: IMO number: 7232822[1]
Fate: Scrapped 10 January 2000, Jiangyin, China
General characteristics
Type: Container ship
Length: 287.6 metres (944 ft)[1]
Beam: 32.3 metres (106 ft)[1]
Installed power: Stal-Laval AP-40 turbo electric steam turbine. Ouput: 81,131 horsepower (60,499 kW)[1]
Propulsion: 1 × fixed-pitch propeller[1]
Speed: 23 kn (43 km/h)[1]

Tokio Express is best known for being hit by a rogue wave on 13 February 1997 that caused her to lose cargo, including one cargo container loaded with 4,800,000 pieces of Lego. Ever since, Lego pieces including octopuses, dragons, flippers and flowers have been washing up on Cornwall beaches and are commonly found after storms.[2][3]

The ship

Tokio Express was one of four Trio class container ships built for Hapag-Lloyd by Blohm + Voss in the early 1970s. These were all 3,000-TEU class ships. The first of these was Hamburg Express, which was followed by Bremen Express, Tokio Express and finally Hongkong Express.[4]

The ships were originally powered by a single screw. During the 1980s they all underwent a refit that included new turbines and twin-screw propulsion.[5][6]

After changing hands several times as Hapag-Lloyd upgraded their fleet, Tokio Express was eventually scrapped in 2000. The name has since been re-used for a similar sized but much more modern container ship, launched in 2000.[7]


While en route from Rotterdam to New York City on 13 February 1997, Tokio Express was hit by a rogue wave about 20 miles (32 km) off Land's End. She tilted 60 degrees one way, then 40 degrees back, losing 62 HGV-sized containers overboard. She put in at Southampton for attention after the accident.[2][8]

One of the lost containers held just under 5 million Lego pieces. Coincidentally, a large portion of these were destined for toy kits depicting sea adventures,[9] in lines including Lego Pirates and Lego Aquazone. Among the pieces were 418,000 swimming flippers, 97,500 scuba tanks, 26,600 life preservers, 13,000 spear guns, and 4,200 octopuses.[10] Sea grass, cutlasses and dragons were also well-represented.[2]

Since the accident, residents in Cornwall have found octopuses, dragons, diver flippers and pieces of sea grass washed ashore.[2] Pieces may have travelled much further; a Dutch shipping clerk started an inventory which now has active participants in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas looking for the arrival of more pieces.[9] It is also expected that some pieces will transit the Northwest Passage and make Alaska in 2012, and Washington State by 2020.[11]

See also


  1. "TOKIO EXPRESS – 1973 – IMO 7232822". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  2. Cacciottolo, Mario. "The Cornish beaches where Lego keeps washing up". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  3. Ebbesmeyer, Curtis (1997). Beachcombers' Alert. 2 (2). Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. "FairPlay International Shipping Weekly", Financial Times,1980, p. 9.
  5. Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering International, Whitehall Press, 1982, p. 87
  6. Shipcare & Maritime Management, Intec Press, 1983, p. 16.
  7. "Tokyo Express". Hapag-Lloyd Vessels.
  8. Coppock, Trevor. "Tokio Express, Scandutch Edo". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  9. Gallivan, Joseph (22 August 1998). "Life's a beach to comb". The Independent. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  10. Garber, Megan. "Why Are All These Legos Washing Up on the Beach?". The Atlantic.
  11. Donald Waters, Supply Chain Risk Management: Vulnerability and Resilience in Logistics, Kogan Page, 2011, p. 135.
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