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Transportation Science

10,000 Shipping Containers Lost At Sea Each Year 163

kkleiner writes "Right now, as you read this, there are five or six million shipping containers on enormous cargo ships sailing across the world's oceans. And about every hour, on average, one is falling overboard never to be seen again. It's estimated that 10,000 of these large containers are lost at sea each year. This month the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) sent a robotic sub to investigate a shipping container that was lost in the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2004. What's happened to the sunken shipment in the past seven years? It's become a warren for a variety of aquatic life on the ocean floor, providing a new habitat for species that might otherwise not be attracted to the area."
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10,000 Shipping Containers Lost At Sea Each Year

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  • One more thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @01:00AM (#35729556)

    To add: If the Captain of any vessel orders it, (in an emergency) any containers they are carrying can be jettisoned to ensure the ship's safety.
    Having worked helping customers move their personal possessions overseas, (mainly for oil & telecommunications companies) I can tell you we very rarely mention it. I have had many people as me if they can pack their kids in with their sofas though.

  • 29,000 rubber ducks (Score:5, Informative)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @01:28AM (#35729708) Homepage

    Reminds me of this story. Basically, 29,000 toy yellow ducks fell overboard as it was leaving China back in 1992. []

  • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @01:30AM (#35729728)

    I'm not a biologist, but I am curious if these open ocean deserts are man made or just nature.

    They will most likely be naturally occurring "deserts". I know that some sea cucumbers are protandric - they can change gender if required. I guess when traversing the sea floor it can take a long time to come across another sea cucumber. So when this happens, and they are both of the same gender, one changes gender allowing them to procreate. This quality would not have evolved without large desert like expanses in the ocean.

    Current human activities do not appear to be effecting the deserts so much as they are effecting the ocean's oases - the coral reefs. Higher temperatures, increased CO2 levels, and fishing are all destroying these ecological hotspots.

  • by waimate ( 147056 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @01:48AM (#35729812) Homepage

    Many of these tend to float pretty much at surface level for days or even weeks. With surface waves, they are impossible to see from small craft but of course are massive and hard. They are a very well known hazard to cruising folk crossing oceans, and will readily hole and sink a fibreglass yacht, or even knock a keel off. Forward-looking sonar, if you've got it, can't see them because of waves.

    There are thousands of people crossing oceans in smallish boats, and every year a few of them go missing due to shipping containers. They very thought of them makes a cruising yachtie's blood run cold.

  • Re:One more thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @07:54AM (#35731376) Journal

    Here's an even more unpleasant truth about international ocean shipping: essentially the shipping company is not liable for the 'disposed' containers, either. If the shipping company has enough losses on a vessel to declare a "General Average", then the compensation for the losses (including vessel damage, if any) are assessed against the other *customers* with cargo on that vessel.

    Basically, the vessel is carrying the cargo as a courtesy; any risk of loss belongs to the owners of the cargo(es) collectively, NOT to the carrier. []

    So as a forwarding agent, not only do you get the pleasure of telling someone that their container of goods has been lost, you get to tell them that
    a) they still have to pay freight shipping costs, AND
    b) they're going to be legally liable for their 'share' of whatever the general average costs work out to be

    Oh it's great fun.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @09:48AM (#35732350) Homepage Journal

    Yes they are natural and have been for a long time. They are not lifeless just have a lower density of life. Almost all life starts with plant life. plant life needs sun light and nutrients So in the deep mid ocean what plants you have near the surface when they die sink to the bottom. When fish eat the waste sinks. When the the fish that dies eats them they sink. So you have have the energy source and the nutrients separated by miles of water column. Unless you have vertical currents there is not much mixing. BTW the richest locations in the sea are where deep water raises to the surface. So yes they are natural because they are caused by the laws of physics. Kind of like how there really isn't much life above 1700 meters in the atmosphere unless there is some kind of land sticking up.

  • Re:"Lost" (Score:4, Informative)

    by snspdaarf ( 1314399 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @09:49AM (#35732360)
    I work in the freight business. Containers are designed to have external devices lock them together. Putting them in/on a ship is a complex process that is designed to limit the amount of shuffling of containers at each port. Interlocking containers like hay bales would slow the process down, costing the shipping line money.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.