An estimated 1,679 containers are lost at sea annually, according to an update to its survey and estimate of containers lost at sea released by the World Shipping Council (WSC).
The earlier WSC survey, released in 2011, covered the years 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The new survey titled: Containers Lost at Sea 2014 Update, includes data for years 2011, 2012 and 2013.
For the combined six-year period from 2008 to 2013, WSC estimated that there were 546 containers lost on average each year, not counting catastrophic events.
It was estimated that 1,679 containers were lost at sea each year, including catastrophic events, such at the MOL Comfort disaster in 2013.
The report noted that 2011 and 2013 each saw rare catastrophic events that resulted in complete and total vessel losses.
In 2011, there was the grounding and loss of the M/V Rena off New Zealand, which resulted in a loss overboard of roughly 900 containers.
There was a total annual loss of 1,514 containers in 2011.
In 2013, there was a total loss of 5,578 containers – 77 per cent of which occurred with the sinking of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean.
The complete loss in 2013 of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean and all of the 4,293 containers on board was described as the worst containership loss in history.
On active safety improvement initiatives, the report stated that, while containers lost overboard represent a very small fraction of the roughly 120 million container loads shipped each year, the industry has been actively supporting a number of efforts to enhance container safety that should help reduce the number of containers lost at sea, including:
• Amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention: The IMO has before it amendments to the SOLAS Convention that will require container weight verification as a condition for vessel loading and will consider these amendments for adoption in November 2014. Misdeclared container weights have contributed to the loss of containers at sea, as well as to other safety and operational problems.
• New Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU): The IMO, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), with industry support, have produced a new code of practice for the packing of CTU, including containers, outlining specific procedures and techniques to improve safety, such as how to ensure equal distribution of weight inside the container, proper positioning, blocking and bracing according to the type of cargo, and other safety considerations. The new code has been approved by the IMO and the UNECE and is expected to receive final approval by the ILO in November 2014.
• Revised ISO standards for container lashing equipment and corner castings: As part of its efforts to enhance container safety, the IMO has requested the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) review and revise its standards regarding lashing equipment and corner castings. The ISO is working on these issues with the industry’s active participation.
The WSC President and Chief Executive Officer, Chris Koch, said: “Every container loss is one the industry would like to avoid. The updated report not only provides more accurate and up-to-date data on the issue, but also identifies those initiatives the industry is supporting to increase container safety and reduce such losses. 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.”