The global container shipping industry continues to see a declining trend in the number of containers lost at sea each year.
The World Shipping Council (WSC) on Wednesday released an update to its survey that provides the industry with its best estimate on the number of actual containers lost at sea.
WSC undertook the first survey of its member companies in 2011, with updates published in 2014, 2017 and 2020. Upon review of the results of the twelve-year period (2008-2019) surveyed, the WSC estimates that there were on average a total of 1,382 containers lost at sea each year.
Graph courtesy World Shipping Council
The conclusion after twelve years is that more than half of all containers lost at sea can be attributed to to the limited number of major events, such as the losses of the MOL Comfort (4,293 containers lost), MV Rena (~900 containers lost) and SS El Faro (517 containers lost).
For the 3-year period ending in 2019, the average number of containers lost annually fell to 779, mainly due to fewer major incidents.
According to the WSC, the number of containers lost overboard represent less than one-thousandth of 1 percent of the roughly 226 million containers carrying $4 trillion worth of cargo transported by ships in 2019.
However, the industry still recognizes that all containers lost at sea represent safety and environmental hazards regardless of how and when those containers were lost.
“The industry is encouraged by the declining trend line indicated in the latest report and continues to work on solutions that will bring the number of containers lost at sea each year to as close to zero as possible,” said John Butler, WSC President and CEO. “The report also outlines a number of initiatives the industry is pursuing to improve container safety and further reduce the number of containers lost.”
In each of the surveys conducted in 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2020 the WSC member companies were asked to report the number of containers lost overboard for the preceding three years. For the 2020 report, all WSC member companies responded and together, they represent 80% of the total global vessel container capacity deployed at the time of the survey.
The WSC’s updated Containers Lost at Sea Report – 2020 can be found here.