THE WORLD Shipping Council has identified a “worrying” break in the downward trend for containers lost at sea, up 18% since its container safety survey began, reaching an average of 1629.

The WSC’s Containers Lost at Sea Report for 2020-21 suggested international liner carriers’ onshore staff and crews managed 6300 ships in 2021, successfully delivering $7 trillion worth of vital supplies around the world in some 241 million containers.

According to the most recent report, containers lost overboard represent less than 0.001% of all containers, from a liner shipping industry perspective, “every container overboard is one too many”. In 2020-21, the number containers were lost overboard.

WSC said factors ranging from severe weather and rough seas to catastrophic and rare events such as groundings, structural failures and collisions can result in lost cargo.

The average losses for the two-year 2020-2021 period was reportedly 3113 compared to 779 in the previous period.

WSC said maritime actors across the supply chain have initiated the MARIN Top Tier project to enhance container safety.


The project is expected to run over three years and will use scientific analyses, studies and data collection to outline actionable recommendations to reduce the risk of containers lost overboard.

Initial results from the study indicates parametric rolling at sea – a phenomenon which is not well known – can develop unexpectedly and with severe consequences.

“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,” WSC president and CEO John Butler said.

“The liner shipping industry’s goal remains to keep the loss of containers as close to zero as possible.

“We will continue to explore and implement measures to make that happen and welcome continued cooperation from governments and other stakeholders to accomplish this goal.”

In addition to the MARIN Top Tier project, WSC and member companies have also contributed to the revision of the International Maritime Organisation’s guidelines for the inspection programs for cargo transport units.

WSC said it also supports the creation of a mandatory reporting framework for all containers lost at sea, an issue which is on the IMO’s agenda for September.

The WSC also highlighted the importance of correct data in enhancing container safety and announced its plans to increase the frequency of the report’s publication. Previously updated every three years, the survey will now be conducted annually.