Based on the most recent survey results, WSC estimates that for the combined nine year period from 2008 to 2016, on average, there were 568 containers lost at sea each year, not counting catastrophic events, and 1,582 containers lost at sea each year including catastrophic events. On average, 64% of containers lost during this period were attributed to a catastrophic event. 

Credit: WSC

The most recent 2017 survey gathered input for 2014, 2015 and 2016. For each of the three years surveyed, the average number of containers lost at sea excluding catastrophic events was 612, which is about 16% less than the average of 733 units lost each year for the previous three year period. When catastrophic losses are included, the total containers lost at sea averaged 1,390 with 56% of those lost being attributed to catastrophic events. This is a 48% reduction from the average annual total losses of 2,683 estimated in 2014.

This larger number in 2014 is due primarily to two factors: the complete loss in 2013 of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean and all of the 4,293 containers on board – which remains the worst containership loss in history; and, in 2011, the grounding and loss of the M/V Rena off New Zealand, which resulted in a loss overboard of roughly 900 containers. Both of these incidents involved complete and total vessel losses.

“Although the number of containers lost at sea represents a very small fraction of the number of containers carried on ships each year, the industry continuously strives to reduces those losses. The latest report shows that the average number of containers estimated to be lost each year is down from the estimates reported in 2014. This is an encouraging sign. The report also identifies initiatives the industry is actively supporting to increase container safety and reduce losses further,” said John Butler, WSC President and CEO.

Further details may be found in the official report: