The World Shipping Council reports that $7tn of goods are transported across the seas every year.
In a report on its website, the Washington DC-based body said there were more than 100 international liner ship operators providing over 2,000 regularly scheduled services.
“Every year, 241 million containers are transported across the seas with over $7tn worth of goods. It is a hotly contested market, with more than 100 international liner ship operators providing over 2,000 regularly scheduled services, most weekly, enabling trade between the nations of the world.
“During the pandemic, extreme and unpredictable demand put supply chains to the test, driving up shipping rates. Today, as conditions are normalising, so is the global supply network, with rates and reliability returning to pre-COVID levels,” the report indicated.
WSC said that in 2022, a total of 661 containers were lost at sea, showing a significant drop from the two years prior, primarily due to a dearth of significant losses last year.
According to the council, 661 containers lost represent a mere 0.00026 per cent, translating to a significantly low loss compared to the volume of cargoes shipped worldwide annually.
The report also stated that the average number of containers lost between 2020 and 2022 stood at 2,301 containers per year, a significant rise from the 779 lost on average each year during the previous three years.
The council said that the number highlighted the industry’s strides in improving container safety, but also served as a reminder of the constant vigilance required to ensure the well-being of crews and the safeguarding of valuable cargo and the environment.
“Over the 15-year period surveyed (2008–2022), an average of 1,566 containers were lost at sea each year.
“However, yearly losses can vary widely due to significant loss incidents, such as the MV Rena incident in 2011 where 900 containers were lost and the MOL Comfort incident in 2013, where a record 4,293 containers were lost when the ship sank in the Indian Ocean,” it stated.
According to the council, an unusually high number of weather-related incidents in 2020 and 2021 led to an average loss of 3,113 containers lost over the two years.
It added, “The spike can be attributed to significant container loss incidents in the Pacific Ocean, including the ONE Apus, which lost more than 1,800 containers in severe weather in November 2020, and the Maersk Essen, which also experienced severe weather in 2021 that resulted in the loss of some 750 containers overboard.”
The Chief Executive Officer of WSC, John Butler, said in the report, “The reduction in containers lost at sea in 2022 is positive news. However, we cannot afford complacency. We are committed to making the sea safer for work, protecting the environment and cargo by reducing the number of containers lost at sea.”
He explained that the safety of containers was a shared responsibility across the supply chain. “Key factors include proper packing, stowage, securing of containers, and accurate weight reporting. Daily, liner carriers collaborate with partners to prevent incidents and ensure safe container transport.
“Working with governments and stakeholders to minimise container losses at sea, the liner shipping industry continues to strive towards enhancing container safety. In 2021, WSC and several member lines, alongside maritime stakeholders, initiated the MARIN Top Tier project,” he explained.
According to him, the project’s research provides data on the causes of containers overboard and measures to prevent such incidents, adding that the research includes the production of training materials, videos, and calculators to help mitigate dangerous situations.