Number of containers lost at sea down in last three years

The number of containers lost at sea each year due to weather conditions and catastrophic events has decreased in the last three years.   

Both catastrophic events, such as ship groundings, structural failures and collisions, and non-catastrophic events, such as severe weather and rough seas, cause containers to become lost at sea.  According to the World Shipping Council (WSC) both catastrophic container losses (incidents where 50 or more containers are lost in a single incident) and non-catastrophic losses have dropped in the last three years compared with the previous six.

In its latest report, WSC claims that between 2014-2016 an average of 612 containers were lost per year, which is a 16% drop compared with the previous three-year time period, 2011-2013, where an average of 733 containers were lost per year.  These figures exclude catastrophic events.

Including catastrophic events, 2011-2013 saw a loss of 2,683 containers, while 2014-2016 figures show a loss of 1,390 containers on average per year, a reduction of 48%.

Image courtesy of WSC.

However, it must be noted that the higher container losses in the 2011-2013 time period is partially attributed to the breaking in half of the MOL Comfort in 2013, resulting in the loss of all 4,293 containers. Additionally, in 2011 the MV Rena grounded in New Zealand causing a loss of 900 containers, which increases the average container losses for the 2011-2013 time period.

For the total years surveyed 2008-2016, WSC estimates there were on average 568 containers lost per year from non-catastrophic events and 1,582 lost per year from catastrophic events. On average, 64% of containers lost during the last decade were attributed to a catastrophic event.

According to WSC, the data indicate that container losses can vary substantially based on weather conditions and significant events such as ship collisions and groundings.  WSC suggests that there must be continuous work around the SOLAS Convention, ISO standards and the Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units to improve safety.

The information was collected by the WSC from its members. According to WSC, the results have been published to make the information available to all interested parties.

View the full survey results here.


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