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When containers are lost at sea: much more than a loss of income

How sea containers might become a threat to the environment.

Sea containers falling off cargo vessels is a phenomenon with various explanations that has grown dramatically over the past few years. An urge to keep up with fast-paced schedules, owing to demanding post-pandemic conditions, has dangerously increased human errors when it comes to loading cargo, such as negligence by stevedores in stacking or lashing containers together. Moreover, the effects of the global pandemic combined in negative conjunction with heavy weather and rough waters – caused by climate change – made up the perfect storm for containerships to face, especially the ones traveling to and from the Pacific Ocean.

As we were saying, when navigating the busiest marine routes, containerships mostly dump containers in the ocean because of natural phenomena. Therefore, according to current regulations, carriers are not held accountable for eventual losses and only have to report such incidents to authorities if they carry hazardous products that put marine sea life and other mariners in potential danger. What happens when general cargo falls in the ocean then?

Since international conventions have not been established yet, lost sea containers may float aimlessly for years before sinking to the seabed or reaching the coast, where non-profit organizations usually come into action to dispose of debris. However, as far as cargo owners are concerned, such incidents cost up to millions of dollars: hence an increase in cargo insurance to protect themselves in case shipped products don’t reach their final destination.

These are the main reasons why shipping liners and cargo owners look forward to attaining a mandatory code of practice to address the issue and guarantee a shared system, which is due to be designed in the next few years. According to the World Shipping Council and the International Maritime Organization, it is fundamental to begin taking specific actions to enhance container inspections and improve monitoring systems to keep track of lost containers.

Articolo a cura di Susanna Belleggia.

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