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Shipping Containers Overboard!

12.01.2014 - Posted by Updated On 12.01.2014    

In case you missed it, last week there was a severe storm off the coast of Ushant, France, in the south west corner of the English Channel, and it was strong enough to knock 14 shipping containers overboard. CMA-CGM, the vessel owner, was able to confirm the contents of the containers and there was no concern of pollution, and a team was quickly dispatched to recover the shipping containers and some were recovered quickly, while the other units took more time to track due to large swells and strong winds.

CMA CGM Vessel

How Many Shipping Containers Are Lost At Sea Each Year?

There are no statistics collected on exactly how many shipping containers are lost overboard each year and the estimates vary greatly in range. The widely publicized estimate is that an estimated 10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea annually. However, the World Shipping Council surveyed its members, who represent 90% of the total global containership capacity, and of the 70% that responded the total number of containers lost each year totalled at 675 containers. The WSC also split out the lost containers into two smaller categories of “loss overboard” and “loss overboard due to a catastrophic event”; the latter group being defined as a loss of 50 or more shipping containers at one time. The new number of containers lost overboard each year to 350, excluding those lost in catastrophic events.

Why Are Shipping Containers Lost Overboard?

Containers are lost at sea for two primary reasons, weather and human error.

A majority of the container that are lost are lost due to severe weather, just as the units lost last week. High winds, deep swells and rough seas are out of the control of the carriers, shippers, and stevedores and nature is difficult to manage against.

Human error comes in terms of unbalanced load stuffing, and improper lashing. The container shipping industry, led by the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands, is continually improving educational programs to better train all people involved in the container shipping process.

Overseas shippers are continually working to reduce the number of containers lost at sea; and while the actual number is much less than the public perception, the ultimate goal for shippers is to reduce the actual number to zero.



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