A total of 661 containers were lost overboard in 2022, out of 250m transported, representing the lowest losses in percentage since the Washington-based liner lobby group, the World Shipping Council (WSC), started the survey in 2008.

The number is less than one-thousandth of 1% (0.00026%) of the containers currently shipped each year, with cargo transported valued at more than $7trn, WSC said. 

During 2022, most WSC member carriers saw no or single-digit container losses, with only two carriers reporting losses above 100 units for the year.

The WSC estimated that there were on average a total of 1,566 containers lost at sea each year over a fifteen-year period (2008-2022), with average losses for the last three years standing at 2,301 containers per year.

The majority of major container losses took place due to sinking incidents such as the MOL Comfort in 2013, the SS El Faro in 2015, the grounding and loss of Rena in 2011, and when ONE Apus and Maersk Essen lost 1,800 and 750 containers in 2020 and 2021, respectively, in severe weather. 

Liner shipping companies have been attempting to improve container safety by collaborating with governments and other stakeholders to reduce the number of containers lost at sea. Several member lines and maritime stakeholders launched the MARIN Top Tier initiative in 2021, which has already delivered data on the causes of container overboard events and how to avoid future incidents. This comprises training materials to enhance awareness of the dangers of various types of parametric rolling, as well as resources such as movies and calculators to aid in the prevention and, if necessary, management of such dangerous situations.

The research is currently taking place into container and lashing gear strength, stowage planning and optimisation, guidelines for vessel operations, and voyage planning, with more results to come in the form of industry best practices, updated safety standards, and recommendations as the project enters its third and final year. 

“The reduction in containers lost at sea in 2022 is positive news, but there is no time for complacency. Every container lost at sea will always be one too many and we will continue with our efforts to make the sea a safer place to work, and to protect the environment and cargo by reducing the number of containers lost at sea,” says John Butler, president and CEO of the WSC.

WSC has been reporting on the number of containers lost at sea since 2011, with data starting in 2008. Originally, the report was updated every three years, but as of this year, it will survey members and report its findings on an annual basis. 

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