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.
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.