Mounting container losses at sea are raising concerns about the effectiveness of current lashing practices and the likelihood of vessel loads being restricted on larger container vessels, reducing market capacity even further.
More than 2,650 containers have been lost overboard in two incidents, in the last two months, representing twice times the annual average, leading to questions about the safety of large containerships.
The 13,100 teu Maersk Essen encountered heavy seas en route from China to Los Angeles this month, losing 750 container overboard.
Maersk confirmed the safety of all crew members and that the vessel is due to call at Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico tomorrow “for cargo survey, port operations and initial repair.”
Of particular concern across the industry is that this accident comes less than two months after violent weather caused more than 1,900 containers to be lost or damaged while the 14,552 teu ONE Apus was en route to Long Beach, California, from Yantian, China, the largest loss of containers at sea in more than seven years.
Although World Shipping Council records show around 1300 containers are lost overboard annually on average from 5,000 vessels, they are isolated or small incidents. Larger container losses at sea tend to be associated with larger accidents, such as grounding (MV Rena/900 containers) or, thankfully rare, sinking (MOL Comfort/4300 containers).
Given that there are hundreds of Ultra Large Container Vessel (ULCV) and post Panamax vessels, some suggest that if there was an inherent problem with lashing processes, wouldn’t we have been experiencing significant losses like these two for years.
Given the proximity of these accidents – geographically and time – and container ships unique susceptibility to a maritime phenomenon called parametric rolling it is likely that calls to review lashing procedures and the size of stacks will grow, reducing vessel load limits and market capacity.
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Carriers and other supply chain participants operate under conditions that limit their liability and may even require you to compensate them, in certain circumstances, which means that any compensation you receive is likely to be considerably lower than your actual loss.
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