Following a surge in the novel Corona virus pandemic the world’s trade came to a grinding halt. As the situation gradually improved and trade commenced at a reduced level the shipping industry has had to contend with the recent boom in the e-commerce sector requiring goods be delivered on time. Along with the recent surge the total number of shipping containers dropping to the bottom of the ocean has greatly increased.
According to maritime shipping experts this is the biggest spike in container losses in almost 7 years. To put into perspective the year of 2020 recorded a total loss of 3000 container boxes, so far in 2021 over a 1000 boxes have dropped to the bottom of the ocean. The unprecedented increase in loss of containers has effected US manufacturers and retailers such as Amazon and Tesla greatly.
The most recent incidents were reported in January and March where two cargo ships of the Maersk company, the ‘Maersk Essen’ which dropped 750 containers on route from Xiomen, China to Los Angeles, USA and the ‘Maersk Eindhoven’ saw 260 containers fall off the ship respectively. Bloomberg has estimated the total monetary loss from the container drops for 2021 is valued at $54.5 million.
The International Maritime Organization has launched an investigation on the most recent incidents and advises not to arrive a pre-mature conclusions as to the cause of the event. But several experts and observers have presented possible causes for the spike in container drops.
Many point out the unpredictability of the weather as one of the primary causes. It is worth noting that most of the container losses have taken place in the Pacific Ocean, arguably one of the busiest shipping traffics combining with the worst weather which has been pointed out by many as a ‘recipe for disaster’. As ship captains are reluctant to change course to avoid bad weather in the hopes of saving fuel and getting the good delivered on time arguably weather has indeed played a fundamental role.
Experts have also pointed out that with the increase in demand container boxes have been placed on ships higher than ever before which would have caused an the ship to loss its balance and due to the extreme rush it is also possible that health and safety protocols have been somewhat overlooked.
The lack of safety on board is considered extremely detrimental to the crew on board the vessels with the founder of Container Shipping Supporting Seafarers Phillip Eastell pointing out that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is by far the most common condition experienced by sailors as a result of these incidents.
The recent blockage of the Suez Canal has pointed out to many the vulnerability of the shipping industry. As long as the pandemic continues to prevail the increase in demand will also continue to remain high and it is extremely likely that similar accidents may occur in the near future unless immediate action is taken to regulate the flow or cargo and improve the safety of the merchandise as well as the crew on board these vessels.
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