WSC report: 661 containers lost at sea in 2022

The World Shipping Council (WSC) has released its annual report on containers lost at sea, revealing positive developments in container safety within the international liner shipping industry.

Proper packing, stowage and securing of containers, and reporting of correct weight are key to the safety of a container ship, its crew, and its cargo, to shore-based workers and to the environment, the report highlights. The responsibility for container safety is shared across the supply chain, and every day liner carriers work with their partners to prevent incidents and ensure safe container transport.

Key findings:

  • The WSC Containers Lost at Sea Report – 2023 Update reports that in 2022, 661 containers were lost at sea.
  • This represents less than one thousandth of 1% (0.00026%) of the 250 million containers currently shipped each year, with cargo transported valued at more than $7 trillion.
  • Reviewing the results of the total fifteen-year period surveyed (2008-2022), on average 1,566 containers were lost at sea each year.
  • Average losses for the last three years was 2,301 containers per year (2020-2022).
Credit: WSC

Active Safety Improvement Initiatives

The liner shipping industry works continuously to further enhance container safety, partnering with governments and other stakeholders to reduce the number of containers lost at sea. These are some of the main initiatives under way:

  • MARIN Top Tier Study: The research undertaken has already delivered concrete data on the causes of containers overboard and how to prevent further incidents.
  • Notice to Mariners, describing how container vessel crew and operational staff can plan, recognize and act to prevent parametric rolling in following seas.
  • A Roll Risk Estimator tool which allows crew to calculate the risk of parametric rolling based on sea and weather conditions as well as vessel specifics.
  • Revision of the IMO’s guidelines for the inspection programs for cargo transport units, including containers: MSC 105 (April 2022) approved to amend the IMO guidelines for CTU inspection programs in order to: 1) clarify that the scope of application is to CTUs carrying all types of cargoes, not just those declared to be carrying dangerous goods; 2) adequately refer to the CTU Code; 3) to allow for inspection reports from non-governmental organizations to be included; and 4) to include inspection for visible pest contamination.
  • There are mandatory reporting requirements for containers lost overboard that are declared to contain dangerous goods and marine pollutants. However, there are not yet mandatory reporting requirements for containers lost overboard irrespective of their declared content.

Improvements achieved

The liner industry has been engaged in this safety effort over two decades, and working with our partners in the supply chain there has been quite some progress on the regulatory side, including in regard to:

  • Amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention: On July 1, 2016, changes to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention requiring verification of container weights before packed containers may be loaded aboard ships went into effect.
  • Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code): The IMO, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) produced a code of practice for the packing of CTU, including containers, outlining specific procedures and techniques to improve safety. The code was approved in late 2014, and informal work to revise it is under way;
  • In support of the IMO’s efforts to enhance container safety, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), with the industry’s active participation, revised its standards regarding lashing equipment and corner castings and the new standards went into effect in 2015. The corner and intermediate fittings standard is undergoing revision to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

The reduction in containers lost at sea in 2022 is positive news, but there is no time for complacency.

… said John Butler, President & CEO of the WSC.

In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mr. John Butler, President and CEO of the World Shipping Council (WSC), had also highlighted that safety comes first and, in that regard, WSC is working along with other members to prevent accidents due to unsafe cargo.