The World Shipping Council (WSC) has released its annual report, Containers Lost at Sea, which highlights the encouraging developments in container security in the international liner shipping industry. According to the report, the number of containers lost at sea fell to just 661 in 2022, a significant decrease from the previous two years, largely due to the lack of significant damage events last year.
The number underscores the industry’s advances in improving container security, but also serves as a reminder of the constant vigilance required to ensure the well-being of crews and the protection of valuable cargo and the environment.
“The decrease in containers lost at sea in 2022 is positive news. However, we cannot afford complacency. We are committed to making the seas safer for work, protecting the environment and cargo by reducing the number of containers lost at sea,” said John Butler, WSC President and CEO.
The WSC recognizes that container security is a shared responsibility throughout the supply chain. Key factors include proper packaging, storage, container securing and accurate weight information. Liner shipping companies work with partners every day to prevent incidents and ensure safe container transport.
Of the estimated 250 million containers shipped annually, the 661 lost containers account for just 0.00026%, a significantly smaller loss compared to the more than $7 trillion of cargo shipped each year . During the fifteen-year period studied (2008-2022), an average of 1,566 containers were lost at sea each year.
However, the annual losses due to significant loss events, such as MV Rena Incident in 2011 where 900 containers were lost and the MOL comfort Incident in 2013 in which a record 4,293 containers were lost when the ship sank in the Indian Ocean. An unusually high number of weather-related incidents in 2020 and 2021 resulted in an average loss of 3,113 containers over the two years. The increase can be attributed to significant container loss incidents in the Pacific Ocean, including the A Apuswhich lost more than 1,800 containers in storms in November 2020, and the Maersk foodwhich also experienced severe storms in 2021, which led to the loss of around 750 containers overboard.
The average number of containers lost over the last three years (2020-2022) is now 2,301 containers per year, a significant increase from the average of 779 containers lost per year in the previous three years (2017-2019).
In cooperation with governments and stakeholders, the liner shipping industry continues to strive to improve container security to minimize container losses at sea. In 2021, WSC and multiple member lines, along with maritime stakeholders, initiated the MARIN Top Tier project. The project’s research provides data on the causes of containers falling overboard and measures to prevent such incidents. Research includes creating training materials, videos and calculators to mitigate dangerous situations.
The project also examines container and lashing strength, stowage planning and optimization, ship operating guidelines and voyage planning. As it enters its final year, the project aims to offer industry best practices, updated security standards and recommendations.
At the regulatory level, the WSC reports on advances in container security. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 105) approved a revision of the IMO guidelines for container inspection programs. In addition, the WSC has advocated mandatory reporting of lost containers, a proposal being reviewed by MSC 107 this year.
Accurate data is critical in the pursuit of increased container security. As part of its advocacy, the WSC has been reporting on containers lost at sea since 2011. In response to the unusually high number of incidents in 2020-2021, the WSC will increase its update frequency to annually.
Since its inception, the WSC has consistently worked to improve safety in container handling and transport, resulting in improvements to the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Convention, as well as the creation and promotion of the Code of Practice for Packing Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code ) ) and ISO standards for container lashings and corner fittings.