Lost Containers: 400% increase in overboard containers 2020 – 2021

June 23, 2022 /

It’s a common sight in Southampton to see massive container ships laden with thousands of containers on their deck. But the numbers of these boxes lost at sea in the past two years has seen a marked increase.

Four-fold increase

Lost containers aren’t a new occurrence, but during the 2020 – 2021 period there was a four-fold increase compared to the previous 2 years.

The World Shipping Council (WSC) published figures for the period between 2020 and 2021, 3133 containers were lost overboard, which compared to the 779 in the previous period is a 400% increase.

It’s been noted by the WSC that the 2020 – 21 winter marked an unusually high number of weather-related incidents and one incident when the ship ONE Apus lost 1818 of its almost 14000 containers in the pacific during November 2020. There was another incident with the Maersk Essen which lost 750 boxes in January 2021.

What’s causing this increase?

The number of accidents can be attributed to a series of factors: ships are getting larger, significantly larger in fact. The Ever Alot can carry in-excess of 24,000 containers.

Weather is getting more unpredictable despite modern weather monitoring technology. The surge in e-commerce, especially during the pandemic, has increased the urgency for shipping lines to deliver as quickly as possible.

ONE Apus was buffeted by gale-force winds and large waves, the footage shows containers ripped to shreds like they were food wrappers.

Shipping experts still insist that the biggest reason for the increases in the number of incidents is the increased demand from consumers, which has resulted in precarious conditions that can quickly result in disaster for both cargos and crews.

A drop in the ocean

The WSC has said that while action has been taken to enhance container safety and reiterated how ship operators follow tight safety procedures, with numbers of containers going the wrong way, the industry needs to help with finding out why this is happening and how they can further increase safety.

While there’s been a 400% increase, these losses account for less than 0.001% of all the 241 million containers that make their way around the world’s oceans. However an increase in these incidents can result in costly insurance claims. In fact, it’s almost 60% of the monetary value of all container incidents.

ONE Apus was estimated to have lost $90 million in cargo, and losses for this year have topped $50 million. Events like the grounding of the Ever Given container ship also resulted in the industry being under the spot-light and the economic effects of the incident are still being felt.

Incident prevention and uncontrollable factors

The industry still has concerns, especially when it comes to the safety of crews. Having multiple towers of 40-foot containers toppling over is both terrifying and has long-lasting effects on a ship's captain and crews, with some experiencing PTSD.

Many crews also feel overworked, with reduced onboard man-power which only increases the risks due to not having the resources to check every single bar and screw effectively.

Insurance companies are also encouraging lines to properly maintain their vessels and be prepared for ships to navigate around weather.

Consignment insurance offers peace of mind for anyone importing or exporting containers from UK. Supreme Freight is able to offer a range of insurance comprehensive packages to cover your shipment, find out more on our Marine Insurance page, get in touch via our contact form or call us on 023 8033 7778.