Recently, 70 cargo containers fell off of the cargo ship "Maersk Shanghai", about 17 miles off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina.

In a recent survey, the  World Shipping Council found that 568 containers are lost at sea each year, on average, not counting catastrophic events, and a total of 1,582 containers are lost at sea each year including catastrophic events. In total, 64% of containers lost during the last decade were attributed to a catastrophic event.

The main reason that containers can fall overboard, are the following:

  • Packing issues;
  • Overweight containers;
  • Inadequate planning;
  • Poor lashing performance;
  • Fully automatic twistlocks (FATs);
  • Voyage planning/navigation.

To reduce container losses, a number of initiatives are underway. Namely, SOLAS Convention requires container weight verification as a condition for vessel loading, while the IMO has issued guidelines on this requirement.

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Furthermore, operators must review heavy weather precautions. Forecasts are never completely reliable and a sensible review must be conducted. Ship handling in heavy weather is probably an area where training has to be improved.