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Earth Robotics Science

Studying the Impact of Lost Shipping Containers 236

swellconvivialguy writes "Looking at a picture of the world's largest container ship, it's easy to visualize how 10,000 containers fall overboard from these vessels every year. Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are now undertaking the Lost Container Cruise, an attempt to gauge the effects of shipping containers lost at sea by studying a tire-filled container, which marine biologists discovered in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (The research [PDF] is being funded by a multi-million dollar settlement with the operators of the Med Taipei, the ship that lost the cargo.) The work is not unlike studying a deep water shipwreck: Use robotic submarine to take pictures and collect sediment samples; repeat."
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Studying the Impact of Lost Shipping Containers

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  • by Finallyjoined!!! ( 1158431 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:03PM (#36427600)

    I guess the good news is that they will mostly sink down into the muddy bottom and be out of the way.

    Strangely most of them float, as ocean yachtsmen will testify; they're a serious hazard.

  • by kidgenius ( 704962 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:11PM (#36427686)
    Consider a few scenarios....

    Let's say it goes overboard and you don't realize it until you get to port. Now, you have to send a ship out to pick it up, and you have no clue where it is. Currents and storms could've pushed that container to who knows where, and that's assuming they floated instead of sunk. How long do you search for it? Searching at all would cost orders of magnitudes more than the container is likely worth.

    Now, let's say it goes overboard and you DO realize it. Do you stop? Follow along as the container floats until another vessel can come pick it up? Those container ships don't have cranes to pick something out of the water with. The cranes are always at the docks. How much does that cost to wait next to a single container (at worst, from a value perspective) while a ship comes and picks it up. What about lost money due to perishables in other containers going bad?

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:12PM (#36427692)

    >>>Picture perfect example of the tragedy of the commons colliding with unregulated capitalism.

    Sadly for you, this is NOT a perfect example because the Ship (and train) containers do interlock like legos and they do tie them down with chains. Shippers really do NOT want to tell their customers, "We lost your cargo," and risk losing them to competitors. They'd prefer to have zero loss.

    But of course zero loss is as impractical as zero downtime for your website or the software you are writing. It's an unrealistic demand.

  • by kidgenius ( 704962 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:13PM (#36427708)
    Transferring isn't really viable. These ships don't have cranes on em. How in the world would you, at sea, pluck a container from the top of the stack and move it to another boat? Helicopter? That's a logistical and economical nightmare for a couple of containers....
  • by Anonymous Psychopath ( 18031 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:25PM (#36427862) Homepage

    Nice try. 10,000 is a tiny, infinitesimal fraction of the 18,000,000 containers that make 200,000,000 trips every year. I'm surprised it's not more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:31PM (#36427948)

    Next they can do an environmental impact of the study that studied the lost container.
    How much fossil fuel was used by the sub going down there to get samples.
    How much damage did the sub do by disturbing the site.
    How many trees were used to print the journal the research was published in.

  • by GreenTom ( 1352587 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @03:37PM (#36428040)
    The data doesn't really support your claim. Between 1920 and 2000, the rate of fatal automobile accidents per vehicle-mile decreased by a factor of about 17. No idea if that's better technology, drunk driving laws, better educated drivers, better roads or whatever, but the idea that transportation safety can't be influenced just doesn't hold up.

    Despite libertarians wishes, policy actually does matter. []

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