Lost at Sea! Shipping Containers

Amber Pittard, June 25, 2018

Estimates predict that each year around 10,000 Shipping Containers are lost at sea; however, it is difficult to obtain an exact figure, as not all losses are reported.

With the increase in demand for consumer goods and number of ships, size and capacity, it is likely that the number of containers lost at sea will rise year upon year.

How many shipping containers are there in the world?

It is estimated that there are around 20 million containers in service and a further 10million+ out of service that are being used for other purposes including; satellite offices, pop up shops, homes, schools and a myriad of other purposes.

How do containers get lost at sea?

There are many ways that shipping containers get at lost at sea, most commonly due to ships running aground due to severe weather or large waves. Other reasons include; catastrophic events and improper stacking – some simply fall overboard!

What happens to the containers afterwards?

You guessed it! Most containers will sink. However, in some cases this may take weeks, and some may continue to float depending on the type of container.

There have been many instances in which containers and the goods within them have been washed up on land, in most cases these goods are redirected by locals.

What types of cargo have washed ashore?

1992 – A container full of 20,000 rubber ducks fell overboard during its voyage from Hong Kong to the United States and were found thousands of miles away… Some duckies remain at sea to this day!

1997 – Vast amounts of Lego have been found on the shores of Cornwall and surrounding beaches. Various containers were lost overboard, one of which was filled with around 4 million pieces of Lego.

2006 – Thousands of bags of Doritos washed up on beaches in North Carolina…Miraculously many of the packets of tortilla chips remained airtight and edible, much to the delight of locals!

Worst loss in history

In 2013 MOL Comfort, a large containership ran into bad weather in the Indian Ocean which led to a crack in eventually splitting the vessel into two parts. It was carrying over 4,000 containers, making this the worst containership loss in history.

When a container goes overboard, it is not only costly but also causes substantial issues for the environment and marine life. Shipping companies are constantly aiming to improve safety and processes to minimise loss, improve profit and reduce the risk to the environment.

Written by Amber Pittard - Global Account Manager at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd

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