- Roughly 568 shipping containers are lost each year during normal operating conditions, DC Velocity reported Wednesday. Adding in unforeseen weather events, the number increases to approximately 1,582.
- Trends indicate that annual losses in normal conditions are fairly stable though rising, ranging from 350 containers lost in the 2008-2011 triennial survey by the World Shipping Council (WSC) to 733 containers in 2011-2014 and 612 in 2014-2017.
- The WSC seeks to reduce those numbers by instituting safety practices such as verifying container weights, pre-loading, adopting a code of practice for safely packing cargo on ships, and requiring standards for container lashing equipment and corner castings.
Lost containers may seem a rare occurrence, but the WSC's triennial reports show the circumstance happens frequently, and can impact even the largest carriers.
In 2014, the WSC reports a Maersk vessel lost 517 containers in the Bay of Biscay, prompting France and Spain to submit a paper to the International Maritime Organization calling for various protective measures. The countries demanded carriers maintain on-board means to identify the exact number of losses, compulsory reporting of lost containers and tools to recover containers be implemented where possible, among other measures.
But the consequences of lost freight are not only monetary but also environmental, prompting additional concerns for both shippers and nations. Hazardous materials can pollute waters, and even non-hazardous material can cause debris to float ashore, placing the recovery burden on municipalities rather than carriers.
In the case of lost goods, insurance for shippers is strongly advised, as ocean cargo losses exceeded $2.4 billion from 2007 through 2014. Once cargo is determined lost at sea, freight claims are required as a legal instrument for demanding compensation. Expiration dates for freight claim filings must be obeyed, which can be complex since the process for determining a container is lost includes unloading and search time.