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Containers lost at sea increased 400% in 2020 - 2021

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There was a four-fold increase in the number of containers lost overboard during the 2020 – 2021 compared to the previous two-year.

According to figures from the World Shipping Council (WSC) 3,133 containers were lost overboard in the 2020 – 2021 period compared to 779 in the previous period, an increase of 400%.

WSC noted the winter of 2020 – 2021 saw an unusually high number of weather-related incidents. The period included the high-profile incidents of the ONE Apus which lost 1,818 containers overboard in the transpacific in November 2020, and the Maersk Essen which lost 750 boxes overboard in January 2021.

While losses overboard account for less than 0.001% of all 241 million containers annually the incidents can result in highly costly insurance claims. Claims cover not just the cargo lost in the containers that fall overboard, but also recover costs if the incidents take place in environmentally sensitive areas, damage to containers and cargoes that remain on the vessel, and lengthy diversions to offload damaged boxes.

WSC said action had been taken to improve safety with the MARIN Top Tier Project to enhance container safety, with WSC and member lines among the founding partners. It said initial studies showed parametric rolling could develop unexpectedly and with severe consequences.

“Container vessels are designed to transport containers safely and carriers operate with tight safety procedures, but when we see numbers going the wrong way, we need to make every effort to find out why and further increase safety,” said John Butler, President & CEO of WSC.

“The liner shipping industry’s goal remains to keep the loss of containers as close to zero as possible. We will continue to explore and implement measures to make that happen and welcome continued cooperation from governments and other stakeholders to accomplish this goal.”