WSC survey reveals losses are a fraction of estimates of 10,000 a year ‘bandied around the industry.’
The number of containers lost at sea is a lot lower than past estimates, according to new research by the World Shipping Council (WSC).
Carrier group the WSC, which claims its members operate 90% of global containership capacity, found that an average of 675 containers is lost at sea each year.
Of this number, 325 are lost in catastrophes, which the WSC defines as a loss overboard of 50 or more containers in a single incident.
The WSC said estimates bandied around the industry in the past suggested that around 10,000 containers were lost at sea each year.
It suggests this number is grossly excessive, and concurs with the National Cargo Bureau, which says there are no comprehensive statistics of the number of containers lost overboard.
In an effort to shed greater clarity on the issue, the WSC undertook a survey of its members to obtain a more accurate estimate of the number of containers lost overboard on an annual basis.
For the study, WSC member lines were asked to log the actual number of containers lost overboard for three consecutive years, and the council assumed, for the purpose of the analysis, that container losses for the 30% of the industry not taking part would be similar.
The WSC said: “Total industry losses obviously vary from year to year, but these numbers are well below the 2,000-10,000 a year that regularly appear publicly, and represent a very small fraction of container loads shipped each year.
“Containers lost overboard as a result of events related to severe weather are usually outside the control of carriers, stevedores, or shippers, and unfortunately, such events are unlikely to disappear.
“But the industry has been supporting a number of efforts undertaken in recent years to reduce the number of containers lost at sea.”
One effort is a joint industry-government project, called Lashing@Sea, led by the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands.
Another is the joint publication of Safe Transport of Containers by Sea: Industry Guidance for Shippers and Container Stuffers by the International Chamber of Shipping and the WSC, which recommends best practice for ships, port facilities and shippers in the loading and handling of cargo containers.
A related effort is the joint decision by the International Maritime Organisation, International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to develop an international code of practice for packing cargo transport units, including containers.
Reference: Damian Brett of IFW, August 2011.