Initiatives to Control Lost Shipping Containers in the Ocean

by | Monday, August 4, 2014 |

According to a three-year survey by the World Shipping Council (WSC), there were approximately 733 shipping containers lost at sea per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. This figure does not include catastrophic events. The WSC defines a catastrophic loss as one in which 50 or more containers go overboard in a single incident. If including catastrophic losses, the average number of shipping containers lost at sea per year is 2,683 for the three years.

Two huge losses in the shipping industry greatly affect the preceding figure. In 2011, the M/V Rena grounded off New Zealand, resulting in the loss of approximately 900 containers. In 2013, the MOL Comfort lost 4,293 containers – the largest shipping container loss in history.

Causes of Lost Shipping Containers in the Ocean

The international liner shipping industry is massive; in 2013, approximately 120 million containers were transported, with an estimated value of more than $4 trillion, according the WSC. Minimizing loss is crucial for both safety and financial reasons.

Many lost shipping containers in the ocean can be attributed to the following reasons.

  • improper packing.
  • poor stowage.
  • inadequate securement.
  • mishandling of the cargo or ship.
  • poorly packaging the cargo.
  • improper weight balancing.
  • miscalculating the weight of the cargo.
  • weather conditions.
  • ship groundings.
  • and, structural failures.

“Every container loss is one the industry would like to avoid,” WSC President and CEO Chris Koch explains. “While nobody can eliminate the challenges of bad weather or the risk of vessel casualties at sea, care and cooperation amongst all those who pack, handle, weigh, stow and secure containers is needed to improve safety.”

Three Initiatives to Control Lost Shipping Containers in the Ocean

The WSC’s Survey Results for Containers Lost At Sea – 2014 Update suggests three ways the industry can reduce the number of loses.

  • Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention – the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is making amendments to SOLAS that requires containers’ weights be verified for vessel loading.
  • Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU) – the IMO, the International Labour Organization, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe are creating a new code of practice for the packing of CTU. The new protocols specify the safety procedures and techniques such as distributing container weight evenly and how to properly block and brace containers.
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) – the ISO is reviewing the IMO standards for lashing equipment and corner castings, and will suggest amendments accordingly.

Each shipping company should do its part in properly training personnel and adhering to the safety standards already in place to avoid lost shipping containers in the ocean. Following protocols will help reduce the risk of both the environmental and economic impact of losing the containers. After all, “the industry’s goal continues to be to reduce those losses to as close to zero as possible,” summarizes the WSC.

More Topics of Interest to the Shipping Industry

For more helpful information about shipping regulations or the maritime industry in general, peruse the posts on the My Vessel Logs blog. While there, feel free to shop for logbooks for your vessel in our Platinum Logbook store.

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