In recent months, cargo worth tens of millions of dollars has fallen off ships as the industry suffers the sharpest surge in lost containers for seven years. More than 3,000 containers went overboard in 2020, with at least 1,000 lost this year already.
It comes as AP Moller-Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping group, said disruption and price rises prompted by the closure of the Suez Canal would continue for most of the year. Maersk described it as an “exceptional market situation with surging demand leading to bottlenecks in the supply chain”.
Freight rates have surged to record highs after container ship Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, the vital link between Europe and Asia. Global demand for containers this year is expected to be the highest since the financial crisis. A boom in online shopping during the pandemic has increased pressure further. It is against this backdrop that container losses are spiking.
As ships grow ever-larger, they are becoming more vulnerable to high winds and nautical phenomena such as “parametric rolling”, in which waves throw a vessel into a rolling motion.
According to shipping experts, human error was underpinning many incidents as well, with stevedores failing to correctly lock containers onto stacks, or captains pressing on into storms in a bid to speed up journeys and save fuel. The World Shipping Council estimates an average of 1,382 containers were lost at sea annually between 2008 and 2019.
Photo source: Dreamstime.com