According to a report published by the World Shipping Council, an organization with its headquarter in Washington, DC, the annual value of goods that are transported via sea is estimated to be $7 trillion in 241 million containers. This is a very competitive market, considering the fact that there are more than a hundred companies that run international liner ship operators and together they provide more than two thousand weekly services in order to facilitate international trade.
The shipping rates increased dramatically during the epidemic as the supply chains struggled to keep up with the high demand. However, it was revealed in the report that currently the worldwide supply network has returned to pre-COVID levels, both in terms of rates and reliability. WSC reported that there were 661 containers lost at sea in 2022, a considerable decrease from the two years prior, largely due to a lack of major losses in 2022.
Lost containers increased to 2,301 annually between 2020 and 2022.
Moreover, the council further estimated that the loss of 661 containers is only 0.00026 percent of the total amount of goods shipped across the world each year. There was a sharp increase from the previous three-year average of 779 lost containers to the estimated amount of 2,301 lost containers annually between 2020 and 2022, according to the research. This drastic increase shows the level of the sector’s inadequate effort in ensuring container safety.
On the other hand, these figures served as a wake-up call of the need for ever-present vigilance in protecting crew members, valuable cargo, and the natural environment. Significant losses, like the MV Rena disaster that occurred in 2011 in which 900 containers were lost and the MOL Comfort incident in 2013 in which a record 4,293 containers were lost when the ship sank in the Indian Ocean, can cause annual losses to fluctuate substantially.
Everyone in the supply chain has a responsibility for container safety.
Over the course of 2020 and 2021, the council claims that 3,113 containers were lost on average due to weather-related occurrences. The report went on to explain that major container loss incidents in the Pacific Ocean were attributable for the increase. These incidents included the ONE Apus, which lost over 1,800 containers in November 2020 due to severe weather, and the Maersk Essen, which lost some 750 containers in 2021 due to weather conditions.
John Butler, CEO of WSC views the decrease in containers lost at sea in 2022 as good news while noting that there is no room to relent. In addition to preserving the environment and cargo, “we are dedicated to making maritime travel safer for workers by cutting down on the amount of containers that go missing at sea”, he said. Butler also stated that everyone in the supply chain has some level of responsibility for the safety of containers. Some of the key considerations to ensure the safety of containers include proper packing, stowage, and fastening of containers, as well as accurate weight reporting.
WSC, others launched the MARIN Top Tier project in 2021.
As stated by the WSC CEO, liner carriers and partners continually work to prevent incidents and ensure the safety of shipped containers. The liner shipping industry also in collaboration efforts with governments shows its commitment to reduce container losses at sea. Butler said in 2021, WSC and other member lines, along with marine stakeholders, launched the MARIN Top Tier project. He explained that projects provide information on the leading cause of containers falling overboard and a countermeasure to prevent it such as creating training materials, movies, and calculators.