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WSC report finds annual container losses in 2023 were lowest since its records began

Report finds containers losses at their lowest number since the World Shipping survey began in 2008.

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The World Shipping Council (WSC) has released its 2024 update on containers lost at sea, marking the first time its report has been produced in back-to-back years. While the report found that lost containers are at their lowest recorded number since the survey began in 2008, the WSC has stressed the ongoing need for stringent safety measures and constant vigilance, adding that “every container lost at sea is one too many”.

Commenting on the results of the survey, John Butler, CEO of the World Shipping Council, said:

“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.”

How the report was put together

The report is based on data collected through surveys and direct reports from shipping companies worldwide.

]Through this process, data is sourced on the number of containers lost, the circumstances surrounding these incidents, and the measures taken to mitigate such losses.

Additionally, the report incorporates information from international maritime organisations..

Key findings

Looking back over the last 16 years, the report reveals a fluctuating trend in the number of containers lost at sea.

The data shows significant spikes in certain years that can be attributed to major maritime incidents. The primary causes of container loss, according to the report, include severe weather conditions, improper packing of cargo, and parametric rolling in following seas.

However, the average annual loss has been mitigated by improved practices and technological advancements in recent years.

In 2023, there was a notable decrease in the number of containers lost at sea compared to previous years. 221 containers were lost, 33% of which were subsequently recovered. WSC adds that most of its member carriers saw only single digit losses, with some having no losses at all. Only one member carriers reported losses over 100 units for the year.

The report attributes this decline to several factors, including better adherence to packing guidelines, enhanced tracking technologies, and improved ship design and stability measures.

Another factor has been the implementation of the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), which the WSC cites as playing a crucial role in reducing the number of containers lost. In particular, the report highlights how adherence to these guidelines has improved packing practices and cargo handling procedures.

Technological advancements have also significantly contributed to reducing container losses. The WSC states that innovations such as real-time tracking, better forecasting of sea conditions, and the use of parametric rolling mitigation systems, have all helped to enhance the safety and security of containers during maritime transport.

Looking forward, the report also projects a continued decline in the number of containers lost at sea, taking into account the ongoing improvements in technology and regulatory practices. However, it also stresses the importance of continuous vigilance and adherence to best practices to sustain this downward trend.

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