In the last edition we reported that the container ship Maersk Shanghai had lost 76 containers and their contents during stormy conditions off North Carolina. At the time of writing only 9 of these containers were initially sighted but after a short space of time just 2 remained floating. The Coast Guard has designated the floating containers as hazards to navigation and salvors have placed tracking devices and lights on them. However, as previously reported, one missing container contains 5,913lbs of Sulphuric Acid which obviously gives cause for concern.

Maersk plans to use side-scan sonar to locate the submerged containers to determine their risk to safe navigation and environmental impact. Weather and sea conditions will determine how quickly they are able to effectively survey the area.

It is a staggering statistic that during the past 3 years an average of 1,390 containers are lost overboard. As well as being a serious threat to the environment many of these containers are submerged just below the surface and form a serious hazard to shipping.

The World Shipping Council’s President and CEO said, “Although the number of containers lost at sea represents a very small fraction of the number of containers carried on ships each year, the industry continuously strives to reduce those losses. The latest report shows that the average number of containers estimated to be lost each year is down from the estimates reported in 2014. This is an encouraging sign. The report also identifies initiatives the industry is actively supporting to increase container safety and reduce losses further”.

Based on the 2011 survey results, the World Shipping Council estimated that on average there were approximately 350 containers lost at sea each year during the 2008-2010 time frame, not counting catastrophic events. When one counted the catastrophic losses, an average annual total loss per year of approximately 675 containers was estimated for this three year period.

In the 2014 survey, the WSC estimated that during the previous 3 years an average of 2,683 containers were lost.

This larger number in 2014 is due primarily to the complete loss in 2013 of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean and all of the 4,293 containers on board and the grounding and loss of the M/V Rena off New Zealand, which resulted in a loss overboard of roughly 900 containers. Both of these incidents involved complete and total vessel losses.

The lower figure of 1,390 containers lost in a year is still far too high and surely requires a review of how containers are stacked.

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