Dozens of containers have been lost from an ultra-large container ship operated by French liner operator CMA CGM in rough weather off the coast of South Africa.

The 17,859-teu CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin (built 2015) lost 44 containers at sea on Tuesday.

A further 30 containers were reported damaged as the vessel was sailing in west from Asia to Europe.

The containers fell overboard as the vessel faced “unexpectedly strong adverse weather” off the South African coast, CMA CGM said in a service update.

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin is operated by CMA CGM as part of the Ocean Alliance’s Asia North Europe service (NEU 4), together with partners Cosco Shipping Lines, Orient Overseas Container Line and Evergreen Marine.

The vessel is one of three ships owned by CSSC Leasing of China, along with the sister ships the CMA CGM Vasco de Gama and CMA CGM Zheng He (both built 2015).

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin will proceed to Cape Town for a thorough assessment, the carrier said.

No injuries to the crew, no pollution and no significant damage to the vessel, which remains fully seaworthy, have been reported, it added.

“After due inspection, it is assessed that all containers lost at sea contained harmless goods and do not contain any dangerous cargo,” CMA CGM said.

The carrier added that it had taken “all relevant and necessary measures to ensure a safe prosecution of the sea voyage”.

“CMA CGM organisation will contact customers impacted by the incident individually to share all available information and grant the best assistance in the next steps,” it said.

The move comes as dangerous weather off South Africa is preventing all container ships heading around the Cape of Good Hope.

Waves of over 10 metres high have added to the disruption caused by rerouting vessels away from the Red Sea.

The weather has already claimed the Ultrabulk-controlled 13,000-dwt multipurpose general cargo ship Ultra Galaxy (built 2008), which has been wrecked on the west coast.

Meanwhile, there are reports that another cyclone is likely to affect South Africa later this week.