The fate of a sunken container


Published: 15 September 2014

The information

Members will be aware of the developments at the IMO which in May this year approved a new container weight verification regime with changes to SOLAS expected to come in to effect in the second half of 2016. Specifically changes will be made to SOLAS Regulation VI/2, and formal approval of the changes is expected to follow at the Maritime Safety Committee's 94th session in November this year. There will be further advices from the Association on these changes.

In the meantime members may be interested to learn more about what happens to a container that is lost overboard and which ends up at the bottom of the sea.

In the attached article researchers at the MBARI have studied the "life" of a sunken container and documented how the marine environment copes with the presence of such a new resident on the ocean floor.

Containers lost at sea

A container lost at sea is a serious issue, as it may present a significant hazard to navigation. Often containers may float for some considerable time, despite being heavily flooded, and if another vessel were to hit such a box it could lead to significant hull damage or even an emergency situation.

Containers that are washed ashore or which sink may also present environmental hazards, depending on their contents.

The Association has noted that littoral states will often seek to have extensive searches carried out to find boxes lost at sea, and either the owner of the vessel is ordered to conduct these or responsible maritime authorities may take on the role. In either event, there may follow significant cost claims for these exercises.

Furthermore when containers wash ashore, or sink in shallow waters, there may be orders for removal made as well as investigations conducted in to possible environmental damage.

In any event, should a member's vessel lose a box overboard, the Association should be contacted immediately so that an appropriate assessment of the situation can be made and suitable assistance can be organised to help the vessel.

Further information

Details of the 93rd MSC Session are published by the IMO.

Members wishing to read the original web article, including having access to the accompanying video, may may find it here.

MBARI News Release 7 May 2014: First-ever study describes deep-sea animal communities on and around a sunken shipping container.

The Association is grateful to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) for permission to republish the attached article on the "life" of a sunken container.

A container vessel in calm seas off Singapore