The number of containers lost at sea hit a new low in 2022, according to the World Shipping Council. There were just 661 losses, a tiny percentage of the 250 million containers transported each year. The WSC cited research into causes and prevention techniques as having been helpful in the reduction, stressing that the decrease should not be cause for complacency. The report suggests focus on shared responsibility between shippers, carriers, and ports. The need for careful packaging, stowing, and securing was emphasised, alongside the importance of accurate reporting of weight. No significant weather-induced loss occurred in 2022. This report highlights the increase in losses in 2020 and 2021 due to a series of high profile incidents, but welcomes the turn-around which happened in 2022.
The WSC calculates the average over three-year periods. While the Rena sank in 2011 and the El Faro in 2015, 2020 and 2021 saw a series of high profile losses such as ONE Apus, Maersk Essen, and Maersk Eindhoven. Most members of WSC recorded zero or single-digit container losses, with only two airlines reporting losses of more than 100 boxes for that year.
This year’s research will focus on the strength of shipping containers, lashing, optimisation of stowage planning, ship operating guidelines and voyage planning. The WSC emphasised how required packaging, stowing, and securing are key to safety and avoiding losses. MSC, OOCL and other shipping companies are starting to use larger ships, with stacks of crates as high as 25 boxes up to a total of more than 24,000 TEU. The WSC highlights the importance of shared responsibility between shippers, carriers, and ports.
The WSC has been involved in advancing container security, including the introduction of guidelines for container inspection programmes, while supporting the proposal before the IMO committee for mandatory reporting on containers lost at sea. By 2026, the reporting requirements are expected to become mandatory. The report did not address ship handling and weather issues, but the WSC previously said initial investigations indicated parametric taxiing was particularly dangerous for container ships in following seas, which requires appropriate training for crew.
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