Do Shipping Containers Ever Get Lost At Sea?

In all the years we have been shipping containers, we have not had a container get lost at sea. Compared to the number of containers shipped daily, the number of containers lost at sea is relatively low.

Can a Trawler Cross the Ocean?
Can a Trawler Cross the Ocean?

Sometimes a shipping container can get lost at sea. For the number of containers shipped each day, losing a cargo container is still relatively rare. Most reasons a container is lost at sea are due to weather-related incidents. The other reasons usually have to do with human error, such as lousy stowage or improper handling.

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About 0.001% Of All Shipping Containers Are Lost At Sea.

The World Shipping Council (WSC) reports that less than one-thousandth of 1% or 0.001% of all containers shipped are lost at sea. For some reason, 2020-2021 was a terrible year for containers lost at sea and saw increased numbers.

The 2020 and 2021 shipping seasons saw that 3,113 containers were lost at sea compared to 779 during the previous period. This trend has worried some shipping companies.

As John Bulter, CEO of the World Shipping Council, has said:

“Container vessels are designed to transport containers safely and carriers operate with tight safety procedures, but when we see numbers going the wrong way, we need to make every effort to find out why and further increase safety.”

John Butler CEO, WSC

Despite the increase during these years, in most years, the amount of containers lost at sea, compared to the total number of containers shipped worldwide, is minimal. It is rare for a container to get lost at sea and not reach its destination.

Weather Is Major Reason Container Ships Lose Cargo

The primary reason shipping container ships will lose cargo, or the cargo falls overboard the boat is weather related. Harsh storms and other weather-related incidents can cause shipping containers to fall or blow off the ship and into the water.

When this happens, many of these same containers are eventually recovered, though more than likely, the goods inside are all damaged.

In 2021 we saw how the weather could play a role in containers getting lost. The two major shipping incidents were all weather-related. Here are some of the significant shipping incidents:

Evergreen Cargo Shipped Got Stuck At Suez Canal
  • Blocking Suez Canal – Every day, thousands of cargo ships will pass through Egypt’s Suez Canal safely, but in 2021, due to a weather-related issue, an Evergreen cargo ship that got stuck went off course due to strong winds. Containers were lost due to this incident, and the ship wedged in the canal blocked other traffic. During this incident, many containers were lost in the channel.
ONE Apus Cargo ship traveling from Yantian, China, to Los Angeles lost some containers at sea
  • Containers Overboard With Huge Swells Of Water – Another famous incident in 2021 that added to the loss of containers was the ONE Apus Cargo ship traveling from Yantian, China, to Los Angeles. Near the Hawaiian islands, the cargo ship encountered vast swells of water that sent 1,816 containers over the side and into the ocean.

We can see from both incidents that the containers went overboard or the ships were damaged due to weather-related issues.

Other Reasons Containers Are Lost At Sea

Even though the weather is the most often reason that container ships are lost at sea, there can also be other reasons why a container may suddenly drop off a ship and into the ocean waters.

Here are some of the other primary reasons:

  • Bad Stowage – Bad or improper stowage is also why a container may fall off a ship and into the ocean. This could also include improper or wrong placement of the cargo containers on the container ship.
  • Handling And Supervision – Bad handling and supervision may also be why a container ship has containers lost or falling into the ocean. If the port does not know what they are doing, it can cause containers not to be secure and get damaged.

Though the weather is the primary reason why cargo containers are lost at sea, lousy stowage of the containers or improper placement can also be an issue.

Most Lost Cargo Containers Found In A Few Weeks

The good news is that most lost cargo containers are found within a few weeks of being lost at sea. This means that shipping companies can still find their containers, even if they fall overboard.

The bad news, of course, is that the products in the containers are probably damaged or unusable by the time you receive them if the container was floating around in the water.

Even if the containers are lost at sea and the products are damaged in the containers, finding them is essential as it will help to ensure that the world’s waterways are not littered with shipping containers that are damaging or polluting the world’s oceans.

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An Insider Guide To Where Home Decor Stores Get Merchandise

Some of the best home decor stores we have been to will use a mix of these different buying methods. In other words, they will buy some great-looking products from wholesalers, have some products they have manufactured or sourced themselves, and then bring in some local craftsmen and sell their products. This gives the stores a unique mix and look.

To learn more, you can read An Insider Guide To Where Home Decor Stores Get Merchandise by clicking here.

What Is The Difference Between Supply Chain Management and Logistics?

Supply chain management is about the collaboration and partnerships to get the goods from raw material to the end consumer; it is about the partnerships and collaborations within this supply chain process. Logistics is one part of the supply chain management; logistics is about moving the goods from one place to another. In some instances, the logistics providers will also store the goods and send them on to the end consumer.

You can learn more by reading our blog What Is The Difference Between Supply Chain Management and Logistics? by clicking here.

What Are The Benefits Of Supply Chain Management?

There are many benefits to supply chain management. The benefits of supply chain management include teamwork and collaboration, improved quality control, better efficiency and effectiveness, on-time deliveries, maximization of overhead costs, improved cash flow, risk mitigation, and shipping optimization. All of these areas are greatly helped by proper supply chain management.

You can learn more by reading What Are The Benefits Of Supply Chain Management? by clicking here.

Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I am the President of Mondoro. I am passionate about helping you CREATE, DEVELOP, and MANUFACTURE home decor and home furnishing products. I am also an avid blogger with a love of travel and riding my motorcycle around the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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Do Shipping Containers Ever Get Lost At Sea?