It may be one of the cheapest and safest way of transporting goods, but improper packaging and damage onto the cargo may result in the container to sink in the sea. Then you might wonder, what happens to the cargo containers lost at sea? Were there many containers lost at sea in 2019?
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Sea and ocean freight accounts for around 90% of all international freight shipment, with 55.000 vessels on the sea at any one time. It’s no surprise that of hundreds of millions of shipping containers transported by sea each year, not all arrive safely to their destinations. So, what happens to shipping containers lost at sea? Eurosender explains how to receive compensation for fallen freight and the measures your business can take if the cargo falls off the ship.
According to research conducted by the World Shipping Council, on average 1,390 shipping containers are lost at sea each year, whilst in 2019 there were approximately 16,000 lost cargo containers. While estimates have varied in recent years due to different reporting measures across different countries, this statistic has even exceeded 10,000 containers falling to the bottom of the ocean every year. One major reason for the lack of accurate information is that lost containers are not noticed or reported until the ship reaches port and inventory is taken. If the container does not contain dangerous or hazardous materials, there is no obligation for the vessel itself to report containers lost at sea.
While the number of cargo containers lost at sea in 2019 might seem quite high, you’ll be happy to know this only accounts for one-thousandth of 1% of the 130 million containers shipped each year. Sea shipment is one of the safest, cost-effective and environmentally friendly options for businesses transporting large amounts of goods internationally.
While 64% of containers lost overboard are caused by catastrophic events, the rest were for reasons which could have been easily avoided.
Throughout an international shipping route, sea containers are handled by many different entities, as well as the vessel itself, each playing an important part in minimising the risk of containers falling overboard. These include:
Cargo losses as a result of negligence are most commonly caused by:
Depending on the type of material inside the shipping containers, and the scale of the incident investigation a salvage operation can take place to minimise the impact on the environment, recover the lost cargo and determine the cause of the incident.
Due to the hazardous material onboard and the clean-up involved, a criminal investigation was launched into the MSC Zoe incident and still continues. This is an extreme example of what can happen; however, it is important to bear in mind the impact, for both businesses and the environment, of failing to take the appropriate measures to avoid such disasters. In this case, it has alleged that proper stacking and securing of shipping containers onboard might have caused the vessel to lose so much cargo, particularly because they fell from the middle part of the ship. More often in rough sea containers are lost from the outer edges, rather than places where they are secured by surrounding containers.
If you have lost a large number of containers, a salvage operation might be necessary to retrieve lost cargo and avoid further criminal action due to environmental pollution. Marine salvage of fallen cargo containers is an expensive and lengthy task, and salvage companies charge thousands and cannot always guarantee that all goods will be recovered. In most cases, goods are damaged and unfit for use, which is why it is always important to ensure your cargo are insured. In other cases, containers are unable to be located especially in deep sea. While refrigerated containers offer much more buoyancy and drift for much longer, most cargo containers will sink to the sea or ocean floor within around 2 months.
Cargo inside lost containers can continue to wash up on shores for years after the incident. In 1997, a vessel carrying containers of Lego was hit by huge waves and to this day, hundreds of Lego bricks are found washed up on the shores of Cornwall, England.
You might be surprised to know; it is illegal to take any goods found washed up on the beach. If cargo is found from shipping containers washed overboard, it must be reported as the contents still belong to the shipper or to the insurer if a claim was lodged and settled.
If you are a business who chooses to ship goods by sea and road freight, it is absolutely essential to ensure you have the right insurance in case these accidents occur and you lose cargo at sea. Although liability largely depends on how the container was lost, carriers have can have limited liability which may not guarantee you the entire cost of lost cargo.
If you are the receiver and your container is lost or damaged on route, you should:
Throughout Europe, it is important to note that carrier liability between national and international road freight is covered by different guidelines.
For international road freight, all countries in Europe have adopted the same legislation according to the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR convention 1956).
If a carrier is responsible for freight lost or damaged during transport, the carrier covers up to approximately 11 euro (8.33 SDR) per kilogram of damaged or lost goods.
For national road freight, legislation varies from country to country, so it is important to check this according to your own selected route for detailed information.
In any case, if your business cannot afford the loss insurance is critical and remember to take necessary precautions when packing and securing cargo to avoid lost cargo from road freight.
Eurosender gives you fast and reliable international freight transport of your container or bulk shipment. Depending on your needs, this could include a combination of services:
Still unsure which service is right for your business? Our dedicated team of experts are on hand to guide you through the process and discuss your shipping needs. Contact us by phone, email or live chat.