Home » Maritime » WSC survey shows containers lost at sea are way below reports

The World Shipping Council (WSC) has released the results of a survey on container losses, which show that reports saying 10,000 containers are lost at sea every year are “grossly exaggerated.”

The WSC said it asked its members, who represent over 90 percent of the global containership capacity, to provide the actual number of containers lost overboard for three previous consecutive years. Those carriers that responded represent over 70 percent of the global container ship capacity.

“WSC assumed that the container losses for the 30% of the industry that did not respond to the survey would be roughly the same as the 70% of the industry that responded,” it said in a statement on its website.

WSC adjusted upward the total annual figure reported to provide an estimated loss figure for all carriers, both WSC members and non-members, and arrive at a total industry figure.

Some carriers reported that they lost no containers during the period, while others noted a catastrophic loss, defined as a loss overboard of 50 or more containers in a single incident. Catastrophic losses—due to events like ship grounding or collision—are rare and can vary greatly from 50 to several hundred.

Based on the survey findings, WSC estimated that, excluding catastrophic events, about 350 containers on average are lost at sea each year, usually related to severe weather and rough seas. Counting the catastrophic losses, an average total loss per year of about 675 containers was observed.

In 2010, the international liner shipping industry carried about 100 million containers of cargo. Five hundred lost containers would constitute 0.0005 percent of the loaded containers transported, WSC said.

“Total industry losses obviously vary from year to year, but these numbers are well below the 2,000 to 10,000 per year that regularly appear publicly, and represent a very small fraction of container loads shipped each year,” WSC said.

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