WSC reports the lowest container losses on record

The number of containers lost overboard in 2022 is 661, the World Shipping Council (WSC) said in its annual report on containers lost at sea, revealing positive developments in container safety within the international liner shipping industry.

Image Courtesy: Havariekommando; Kustwacht

As explained, this represents the lowest losses in % since the start of the survey in 2008.

The WSC Containers Lost at Sea Report – 2023 Update said that this represents less than one thousandth of 1% (0.00026%) of the 250 million containers currently shipped each year, with cargo transported valued at more than $7 trillion. Reviewing the results of the total fifteen-year period surveyed (2008-2022), on average 1,566 containers were lost at sea each year.

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 average annual loss for the two-year period 2020-2021 saw an increase to 3,113 from the 779 of the previous period, driven by major incidents. In 2020 the ONE Opus lost more than 1,800 containers in severe weather. The Maersk Essen also experienced severe weather in 2021 that resulted in the loss of some 750 containers.

“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 & CEO of the WSC.

Proper packing, stowage and securing of containers, and reporting of correct weight are key to the safety of a container ship, its crew, and its cargo, to shore-based workers, and to the environment. The responsibility for container safety is shared across the supply chain, and every day liner carriers work with their partners to prevent incidents and ensure safe container transport.

To improve container safety, WSC, several member lines and a range of maritime stakeholder started the MARIN Top Tier project in 2021. The research undertaken has already delivered concrete data on the causes of containers overboard and how to prevent further incidents. This includes training materials to raise awareness of the risk of various kinds of parametric rolling, as well as tools such as videos and calculators to help prevent and, if necessary, manage such dangerous situations.

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

On the regulatory side, there has been progress on two key regulatory efforts for container safety that WSC is engaged in at the IMO. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 105) approved a revision of IMO’s guidelines for container inspection programs, among other clarifying that it applies to all cargo, adding guidance from the CTU Code, as well as inspections for visible pest contamination.  

WSC has also for many years been advocating mandatory reporting of containers lost at sea, and have contributed in the IMO CCC 8, to the development of a system for mandatory reporting of containers lost at sea. The proposal will be considered by MSC 107 in May-June this year. If approved, the system can be adopted at MSC 108 next spring, making international mandatory reporting requirements for containers lost as sea effective as of 2026.