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Record low number of containers lost at sea in 2023

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The number of containers lost at sea in 2023 was around a third of the level seen in 2022 and the lowest since 2008, according to WSC.

The latest Containers Lost at Sea report from the World Shipping Council (WSC) reported 221 containers lost at sea in 2023, with around a third of those subsequently recovered.

The latest figure marks a significant improvement over the previous record low recorded in 2022 of 661 containers, continuing a downward trend from almost 4,000 lost containers in 2020. 2013 remains the worst year on record, with over 5,500 containers lost overboard, owing to high profile incidents like the ONE Apus and Maersk Essen, which lost 1,818 and 750 boxes, respectively.

"The reduction in containers lost at sea in 2023 is a positive development, but it does not diminish the urgency of our work. Every container lost at sea represents a potential hazard, and our commitment to preventing these incidents must be unwavering," said John Butler, CEO of the World Shipping Council.

The data was compiled from WSC members, representing around 90% of global container shipping capacity. From January 2026, the IMO will mandate reporting of containers lost over sea, giving greater insight into the scale of losses and their causes.

WSC highlighted the contribution to container loss reduction of the Marin TopTier Joint Industry Project through its outcomes on the causes of container overboard, recommendations,  and training material on the avoidance and management of different kinds of parametric rolling. The final report from TopTier is due to be published this year, containing conclusions and recommendations from its scientific research and analyses, along with industry best practices, updated safety, container and lashing standards, guidance and recommendations for regulatory updates.