Yellow submarine.

When I first slammed into its old school front page, I didn’t expect “Cargo Law” to be anything more than a cobbled-together, behind-the-times, corporate hack-job of a website, filled with uninteresting, unpleasantly patriotic, law-related content. But after being utterly hypnotized by the incredible photos and stories featured on this site, I am now convinced that Cargo Law is one of the most fantastic websites I have ever come across. Make no mistake: this is also one of the most poorly organized, poorly designed, difficult to navigate and outrageously impractical websites I have ever seen, but somehow, the content actually makes up for it.

Cargo Law is a website that keeps track of major shipping disasters, as they are happening, providing pictures, stories, webcam images, stats and fresh updates. It’s been in operation for over 8 years, and is still regularly updated. The website is basically an enormous repository of giant ships running into reefs, ships being assaulted by waves at high sea, ships losing their millions of dollars in cargo overboard, smashing into cliffs, and sometimes, eventually being set free.

The site is edited by three lawyers at Countryman & McDaniel, all of whom have “Esq.” at the end of their names (which is awesome). Their offices are at the LA International Airport, and they have a webcam pointing out their window, which overlooks the runway. This is all essentially useless filler information, just to give you some background about these guys. These lawyers are into shipping — they know their freight and cargo — and the website is a mind-blowing demonstration of what to do when you have very industry-specific knowledge of something obscure: blog the hell out of it.

This feature wouldn’t be complete without photos. Please be amazed:

Carrying Coal To Newcastle

The Date: June 7 2007
The Time: Morning
The Place: On The Australian Coast
Vessel Type: M/V Emerald Bulker
Vessel Name: Pasha Bulker
What happened: Click here to read the whole story (you have to scroll very far down before it begins). Click the picture to see the huge version.

This is one single photo, unedited. Look at how HUGE the ship is!

Stack Attack

The Date: June 22 2007
The Time: Morning
The Place: At Port of Trieste
Vessel Type: M/V Ital Florida
Vessel Name: Ital Florida
What happened: Click here to read the whole story.

The stacks got smacked.

Disaster in Real Time

The Date: January 18 2007
The Time: Morning
The Place: In The English Channel
Vessel Type: EX-M/V CGM Normandie
Vessel Name: MSC Napoli
What happened: Click here to read the story. It involves millions of dollars in cargo, included BMW motorcycles, beauty cream and bibles, getting washed up on shore and looted by the scavenging locals.

They'll steal your motorcycles!

They ARE stealing your motorcycles!

Cargo Law’s website is a navigational puzzle to figure out, but if you can stomach the distinct smell of a website launched in ’99 and maintained by a team of lawyers, the content is its own reward.

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Kevan Gilbert

Kevan Gilbert is a writer, speaker and content strategy on the West Coast of BC, Canada.


  1. I’m impressed you made it through the site enough even to find its wicked cool information. After your site I figured I should check it out for myself, only to basically immediately give up and run away. Hope the mainland’s treating you well.

  2. Thanks, Dan. The website is indeed a ridiculous mess. I’m tempted to send them a note and ask if they want to hire a web design studio to revamp the whole thing. The problem is, it would probably take SO LONG to reorganize all that info that the project would just never, ever finish.

  3. Yeah, I took about forty seconds on that website before throwing up my hands and deciding to go watch baseball instead. Cool pics, though. I do seriously wish a cargo disaster would occur near enough to my backyard for some serious looting.

  4. What amazes me is that there are that many accidents that they can keep updating so frequently. Good indication to NEVER work in the industry.

    I just found your site and am loving the distraction from work.


  5. they’ve been doing that for years and years, they are still amazing. Check the links-they go everywhere.

  6. We are honored by the comments of you & your readers.

    Yes, we understand that the style of our website is out of date. But as you point out — we are cutting edge where international maritime disasters are concerned. When there is a disaster at sea — the readers come to us firsrt.

    We do not allow ads on our site — and we respond to numerous consumer/shipper queries each day at no charge concerning the perils of intlernational shipping. We absorb this expense.

    Ours is a service, not an entertainment. Sorry that we don’t look as pretty as some of your readers might like.

    It is very dangerous “out there” and we want shippers to understand this

    Our Websitee currently runs a data strem of over 500GB per month & about 600,000 hits per day. Those concerned in our industry are not confused by form over substance. Our Website may look old fashioned, but it provides the information required.

    Lloyds of London called us “the most disorganized Website that you can’t afford to miss.” We are quite proud of this,

    We plan to upgrade the look our Website this year — but in the meantime — we will continue to provide you all with news & pictures of maritime distaters in real time.

    Many thanks;

    Michael McDaniel

  7. Lorraine Krause

    I got a power point a while ago of ship container disassters called something like, Why your shipment is late.
    Did that come from your site?
    If so, would you please send me the link?
    Thank you

  8. is an addition, you can not help but read more and more about their stories.
    I enjoyed it.

  9. Mark in New Zealand

    Yes, Cargolaw is really neat, I work on a deep sea oil rig and regularly visit it.
    Why though, does Google and or microsoft brand it as “this website can damage your computer” and claims cargolaw is home to some bad virus stuff?
    Can anyone elucidate me?
    Zanks a thillion!

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