Number of shipping containers lost at sea sinks to new low

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The number of shipping containers lost at sea decreased significantly in 2023, dropping to 221 units from its mark of 661 containers lost in 2022, and setting the lowest number recorded since the survey began in 2008, according to the World Shipping Council (WSC).

And of that number that fell overboard, about 33% of the lost containers were recovered, the WSC said in its “Containers Lost at Sea Report.” 

Despite the improvement, the WSC—which is a trade association representing the international liner shipping industry—underscored the ongoing need for stringent safety measures and constant vigilance, saying that every container lost at sea is one too many.

In line with that approach, the WSC just last week had applauded a new rule set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that will require mandatory reporting of all containers lost at sea beginning in 2026.

The group is also working to create standards to prevent more containers from tumbling off ships in the first place. One initiative to support that goal is called the Marin TopTier Joint Industry Project, which has compiled causes of containers overboard, together with recommendations and training material on how to avoid and manage a dangerous condition called parametric rolling.

Later this year, the TopTier group will publish its final report on the topic, including conclusions and recommendations arising from scientific research and analyses, providing industry best practices; updated safety, container, and lashing standards; and guidance and recommendations for regulatory updates.

“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,” John Butler, WSC’s CEO, said in a release.




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