Record Low in Containers Lost at Sea in 2023

A new report from the World Shipping Council (WSC) reveals that the number of containers lost at sea hit an all-time low in 2023.

According to the Council’s annual report, only 221 out of the estimated 250 million containers transported were lost at sea last year, marking a significant improvement compared to the previous record low of 661 lost containers in 2022. The report also highlights that about a third of the 221 containers lost were recovered.

“The reduction in containers lost at sea in 2023 is a positive development, but it does not diminish the urgency of our work. Every container lost at sea represents a potential hazard, and our commitment to preventing these incidents must be unwavering,” said John Butler, CEO of the World Shipping Council.

Containers lost at sea chart 2008-2023
Chart courtesy World Shipping Council

Initiatives like the Marin TopTier Joint Industry Project are enhancing marine transportation safety by studying why containers go overboard and offering mitigation strategies. A final report due later this year will present updated safety, container, and lashing standards, as well as guidance for regulatory updates.

New mandatory reporting requirements for containers lost at sea, adopted by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 108), will take effect on January 1, 2026. The amendments aim to enhance navigational safety, facilitate swift response actions, and mitigate potential environmental hazards. The WSC is also to revise and upgrade safety guidelines, including the SOLAS Convention and the CTU Code.

The World Shipping Council (WSC) has been reporting on the number of containers lost at sea since 2011, with data starting from 2008. Initially updated every three years, the report is now produced annually since 2023 as part of WSC’s advocacy for mandatory international reporting of containers overboard.

Yearly losses of shipping containers can vary significantly due to major incidents and weather conditions. Notable examples include the MV Rena (>900 lost) and MOL Comfort (4,293 lost) incidents in 2011 and 2013, respectively, and weather-related incidents in 2020 and 2021, including the ONE Apus (>1,800 lost) and Maersk Essen (~750 lost), leading to an average loss of 3,113 containers over those two years.

By gCaptain

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