So just what are the risks of losing your cargo due to a container being lost overboard while it is on the high seas?
According to the latest research from the World Shipping Council (WSC), it might be substantially less than the “urban myths” that often accompany the subject – with claims that as many as 10,000 boxes a year are lost overboard.
However, the WSC, which first surveyed its members on lost containers in 2011 and last week completed another survey has found that losses have been on the increase in recent years.
While the 2011 survey found that during 2008, 2009 and 2010, the shipping industry as a whole lost 675 containers a year, a figure which included catastrophic losses; which are defined as an incident where more than 50 containers are lost.
In this year’s survey however, which covered 2011, 2012 and 2013, a much higher 2,683 containers were lost per year, although the figure was it was substantially bolstered by the loss of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean last year, when all 4,293 containers on board went down after the vessel broke in two, representing the single worst containership loss in history.
In addition, there was the grounding of MSC’s Rena off the coast of New Zealand, which resulted in the loss of 900 containers overboard.
Even without these two exceptional, catastrophic losses, the WSC found that there would have been a loss of 733 containers per year, an increase of almost 10%.
Chris Koch, WSC president and CEO, said: “Every container loss is one the industry would like to avoid. The updated report not only provides more accurate and up-to-date data on the issue, but also identifies those initiatives the industry is supporting to increase container safety and reduce such losses. While nobody can eliminate the challenges of bad weather or the risk of vessel casualties at sea. Care and cooperation amongst all those who pack, handle, weigh, stow and secure containers is needed to improve safety.”