The data for this Post came from one of our European correspondents who sent NAUTICAL LOG TT Talk Edition 136. It is from this article that we shall be quoting freely because frankly it is not something that we had addressed previously. Comments on the causes are based on the personal experience of NAUTICAL LOG serving as Chief Officer and Master in container ships.
In a recent European Parliament debate the number 10,000 containers lost each year was quoted. Surprisingly the shipping lines and the insurers seemed content to accept this figure and do nothing about it. While there are some questions by Insurers as to the validity of the number "lost" it is clear that containers go missing. The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) suggested that shipping lines and insurers be held responsible for the after effect of non-chemical toxic releases into European waters. The reasons cited for lost containers involved poor stowage by those involved in loading and lashings released prior to entering port.
Another reason suggested during debate was that of containers being mis-declared that were overweight. Mis-declaration of the cargo mass is a serious problem and MEPs demanded that containers were weighted at the port prior to loading.
This caught the eye of NAUTICAL LOG because some years ago when Chief Officer of a container ship operating from three US ports and one Canadian port to eleven ports in West Africa there was a continual problem in one particular port. After discharge of empties and high value loaded containers from Zaire, West Africa we would commence next voyage loading. All usually went quite well in the US ports, however when we went to our Canadian port - Halifax - the problems began. It was clear that the Halifax containers were all overweight some to the point that the ships gear, which was used during cargo operations there, was under excessive strain. It was of course quite easy to work out a containers true weight from the stability calculations. Finally one voyage we, the Master, Chief Officer and Chief Engineer, had had enough and refused to load the cargo as offered. Of course all hell broke loose and the ship remained in port overnight. The end result was it was agreed that the containers were indeed excessively overloaded. They were stripped and restuffed to the correct weight causing an overall three day stay in port. For the remaining year of the contract we had no further problems with overloaded containers in the Port Of Halifax. One might note that during the entire two year contract we had no "lost" containers, which is no mean feat when running to West Africa !!
On January 01, 2011 the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) comes into force. This Code is the former Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code). The new Code is aligned with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) and will be similarly regularly revised.
Well it will be interesting to see how things go under this IMSBC Code and if the true number of "lost" containers can be more accurately tracked and decreases from that 10,000.