Containers lost at sea sink 66.6% in 2023, says WSC

June 13, 2024

  • The number of containers lost at sea last year sank 66.6% to 221 from 661 in 2022, according to the World Shipping Council
  • About 33% of the lost containers were recovered
  • The WSC underscored the ongoing need for stringent safety measures and constant vigilance

The number of containers lost at sea last year sank 66.6% to 221 year-on-year, according to the World Shipping Council (WSC).

In its annual report on containers lost at sea, WSC stated that the 221 containers were out of 250 million containers transported in 2023. This was a marked reduction from the previous lowest-ever loss of 661 containers in 2022.

Of the total lost last year, about one-third were recovered, according to the Council, which underscored the ongoing need for stringent safety measures and constant vigilance.

Each container lost at sea “is one too many,” said the WSC, adding that despite the improvements, the industry cannot become complacent.

The need for dedication to safety protocols and preventive measures must be continuous, it also said.

The WSC reported a number of ongoing and upcoming initiatives, foremost of which is the Marin TopTier Joint Industry Project.

TopTier has contributed solid outcomes on the causes of containers overboard along with recommendations and training materials on how to avoid and manage different kinds of dangerous parametric rolling.

On or before the end of this year, the final report will be published. It should have conclusions and recommendations arising from extensive scientific research and analyses. It will provide industry best practices; updated safety, container and lashing standards; and guidance and recommendations for regulatory updates.

Another initiative is the new mandatory reporting requirements of containers lost at sea, recently adopted by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee, which takes effect on New Year’s Day of 2025.

The new reporting requirements were part of the first submission by the European Union. The amendments aim to enhance navigational safety, facilitate swift response actions, and mitigate potential environmental hazards.

There are continuous efforts to revise and enhance safety guidelines, including the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and Cargo Transport Units (CTU) Code.

According to WSC CEO John Butler: “Every container lost at sea represents a potential hazard, and our commitment to preventing these incidents must be unwavering.”

The work is unending, says the WSC, which noted that “the progress achieved so far serves as a foundation for further action and continuous improvement.”

Correct data is paramount.

“As part of our advocacy for mandatory international reporting of containers overboard, WSC has been reporting on the number of containers lost at sea since 2011, with data starting 2008,” said Butler.

Previously, the report was updated every three years, but since 2023 it has been carried out every year.

While there have been many improvements achieved over the years to increase safety and container handling and transport, there are many more improvements planned in the coming years.

Or, as Butler said, “The work continues.”