Container loss rates decrease

The World Shipping Council has estimated that there were on average 568 containers lost at sea each year in the period 2008-2016, not counting catastrophic events, and on average a total of 1,582 containers lost at sea each year when catastrophic events were included, meaning that, on average, 64% of containers lost in the past 10 years were the result of a catastrophic event.

WSC noted in what was its third survey since 2011 that container losses in any particular year could vary substantiallybecause of differences in weather and other unusual events.

The total loss of vessel El Faro in 2015 accounted for almost 43% of the total containers lost into the sea in 2015. At any point in time, there are about 6,000 containerships active on the world’s seas and waterways linking continents and communities through trade.

In each of the surveys, which were conducted in 2011, 2014 and 2017, WSC members were asked to report the number of containers lost overboard for the preceding three years. For the 2017 report, all WSC member companies responded, representing 80% of total global vessel container capacity. WSC assumed for the purpose of its analysis that the container losses for the 20% of the industry’s capacity operated by non-respondent carriers would be roughly the same as those of the 80% of the industry that did respond.

Some carriers lost no containers during the period, while others reported a catastrophic loss (defined as a loss overboard of 50 or more containers in a single incident).

Although catastrophic losses were rare, their severity meant that the total number of containers lost in such events represented more than half of all containers lost.

Based on the 2011 survey results, the WSC estimated that on average there were approximately 350 containers lost at sea each year during the 2008-2010 time frame, not counting catastrophic events. When catastrophic losses were included, the average annual total loss per year was estimated at 675 containers for 2008 to 2010.

In the 2014 survey, covering 2011 to 2013, WSC estimated that there were about 733 containers lost each year at sea, not counting catastrophic events. The average annual loss including catastrophic losses for 2011 to 2013 was about 2,683 containers an increase attributable to the complete loss in 2013 of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean and all of the 4,293 containers on board – which remains the worst containership loss in history, and the 2011 grounding and loss of the M/V Rena off New Zealand, which resulted in a loss overboard of roughly 900 containers.

The most recent survey, covering 2014 to 2016, saw the average number of containers lost at sea each year, excluding catastrophic events, was 612, some 16% down on the average from 2011 to 2013. Including catastrophic losses the total averaged 1,390, with 56% of those lost being attributed to catastrophic events down 48% the average annual total losses from 2011 to 2013.