As the container ships get bigger and bigger, the number of containers carried by these vessels has reached its highest level than ever. Obviously, this tendency drives up the odds of the container losses. In the past, estimating the accurate number of lost containers was a highly arduous process. Based on non-precise allegations, it was supposed that 10000 containers might disappear at sea each year.

For the purpose of providing the primary and most accurate figures for container losses, World Shipping Council (WSC) conducted a survey in 2011 and updated it in 2014 and 2017. In line with the survey undertaken by WSC, it is evaluated that 568 containers are lost at sea every year excluding catastrophic events. The number of lost containers can be as high as 1582 included catastrophic incidents.

Yes, it is possible that some carriers do not record any loss during several trips. Despite the fact that catastrophic accidents occur infrequently, the total amount of lost containers in these events may represent 64% – more than half of all losses.

Catastrophic events and their consequences for the environment

In the past few years, quite a few accidents happened that influenced the industry immensely bringing a huge amount of costs in its wake. To give you a clearer picture, we would like to share some of the most recent terrific events.

 

Los at sea: MS Rena grounded in Bay of Plenty

Liberian-flagged container vessel – Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty near New Zealand

On October 5, 2011, Liberian-flagged container vessel – Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty near New Zealand. Severe weather conditions hardened the salvage operation and after three months the ship split into two parts. The accident resulted in the omission of a heavy oil mass into the ocean and the loss of a significant number of containers. The salvage operation cost almost $700 million and consequently, the incident was declared as the worst maritime catastrophe in New Zealand’s history.

 

The worst container shipping disaster – MOL Comfort

The loss of MOL Comfort accounts for the worst container shipping disaster of its kind from almost all perspectives. On June 17, 2013, the ship was divided into parts while transporting a cargo of more than 4000 containers from Singapore to Jeddah. The cause of the fracture resulting in the accident still remains uncovered. All containers were lost in this horrible event leading to the adoption of new regulations to improve the safety of large container ships.

The loss of MOL Comfort accounts for the worst container shipping disaster of its kind from almost all perspectives

Visible from space – Maersk Honam

The ultra large container ship – Maersk Honam is one of the giant vessels with 7,860 containers incurring an accident. Maersk Honam reported a severe fire on March 6, 2018, while moving from Singapore to Suez. Reports signify that the fire was so enormous that it was visible from the space. Most of the containers got lost. Unfortunately, economic and ecological costs were not the only negative consequences. As a result of the accident, five crew members lost their lives as well.

The ultra large container ship – Maersk Honam is one of the giant vessels with 7,860 containers incurring an accident

Main reasons why containers get lost at sea 

As we see from the major accidents, the causes of the incidents may differ significantly. Apart from the heavy weather, simple operational mistakes can also be the causation of container ship incidents. Packing problems, overweighing, inaccurate lashing of containers can be decent examples to name a few of them.

– Packing problems – incorrectly packed cargo can give a rise to chemical reaction or disruption if they are exposed to heat or moisture.

– Overweighing – it has been affirmed by many sources that sometimes containers are not weighed or weighed inaccurately. This can cause the overloading of lashings and can increase the chance of container fall from the ship.

– Non-compliance with the Container Securing Manual (CSM) – non-adherence to the limits of stack weight and height is another common cause of stack collapse.

– Improper lashing – The larger the ship, the higher the change of lashing problems. Because it complicates the process of lashing arrangement and checking against the CSM.

How can we avoid that containers get lost at sea?

Yes, maybe we can diminish some problems regarding container losses by abiding by compliance, but we cannot prevent some problems, such as severe weather conditions. Therefore, insuring our cargo helps cover the costs related to fateful incidents.

At Container xChange, we offer our customers optional insurance for the transacted containers. The insurance costs 2.5$ per container and covers the total loss including constructive total loss.

As it turns out, container losses do not constitute a large fraction of all containers shipping all around the world, still, catastrophic events and other unplanned issues are inevitable. Hindering container losses is the shipping companies’ accountability and everyone in the supply chain of logistics are equally responsible for obeying all the regulations determined by the International Maritime Organization to inhibit any probable incident.