The International Shipping Industry carries upwards of 120 million containers annually with an estimated value upwards of U$4 trillion. No matter what precautions are taken, hundreds of containers are lost at sea every year due to rough seas, severe weather, grounding, collisions and structural failures.
In two separate studies, the World Shipping Council surveyed the carriers who account for roughly 70% of global box movements, and made the assumption that loss figures for the remaining 30% of the market would be similar. They established that for the years of 2008/9/10 there were roughly 350 containers lost each year in non-catastrophic events. For the years 2011/12/13 the figure had risen to an average of 730 containers lost at sea each year.
When catastrophic conditions are taken into account (catastrophic is when vessels are lost) the average figure for 2011-13 rose to 2683 containers per annum, mainly down to the loss of the M/V Rena off New Zealand and the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean, where 900 and 4293 containers were lost respectively.
Recent legislative changes, including amendments to the SOLAS Convention in 2016, will help to reduce the number of containers lost at sea. However, the problem will never go away completely and it is imperative that importers and exporters adequately protect themselves from damage to, or loss of goods, but also from the potential costs which may arise when a “general average” is called.
For those companies who ship regularly an annual marine cargo policy is a must. For companies shipping on an ad-hoc basis, either select to insure on a shipment by shipment basis, or purchase annual cover. Your freight forwarding company is usually able to organise, or recommend a reputable Insurance Company who specialise in Marine Insurance. They should be able to give you good advice to make the best choice for your circumstances, and ultimately give you peace of mind.