PEAK liner shipping body World Shipping Council has thrown its weight behind new IMO regulations mandating notification of all containers lost overboard at sea.

Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 108) will take effect on 1 January 2026, “setting a new standard for maritime safety and environmental protection,” the WSC said.

“The new regulations, specifically amending SOLAS Chapter V Regulations 31 and 32 … (ensure) prompt and detailed reporting of lost and drifting containers. These amendments will enhance navigational safety, facilitate swift response actions, and mitigate potential environmental hazards,” Lars Kjaer, WSC SVP Safety & Security, said.

Key provisions of the new regulations are:

Regulation 31 – Reporting by the Master of the Ship:

The Master of a ship involved in the loss of containers must immediately and thoroughly report specific details to nearby ships, the nearest coastal state, and the flag state. The flag state will then pass this information to the IMO via a new module in the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS). Masters of ships that observe drifting containers must report it to nearby ships and the nearest coastal state.

Regulation 32 – Reporting Details:

For Containers Lost at Sea:

Reports must be made ASAP, with updates as more information becomes available; A final count of lost containers must be confirmed after a thorough inspection; Mandatory details include the position of the lost containers, the total number lost, and if any contained dangerous goods. Additional descriptive info is required if possible; Masters can also share voluntary details about the cargo, sea conditions, and more.

For Drifting Containers Observed:

Reports must include the position and total number of containers spotted drifting; Additional voluntary details similar to those for lost containers can be provided if available.

In anticipation of the introduction of mandatory reporting requirements, WSC notes that since 2008 it has gathered information from its members on the number of containers lost at sea, which is published regularly in the Containers Lost at Sea Report and submitted to the IMO.

The changes to SOLAS now put in place show the IMO’s commitment to improving maritime safety and environmental stewardship, the Council said. By mandating detailed and timely reporting, as the WSC has been advocating, the maritime community can better tackle the challenges of lost containers, ensuring safer navigation and protecting our oceans.

Australia has experienced two high-profile incidents of multiple lost containers in recent years, from YM Efficiency in mid-2018 and APL England in May 2020, as well as more minor losses. The largest loss in the region occurred when Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef when approaching Tauranga, NZ in October 2011 and subsequently broke up.