As the pandemic pushes the demand for things, carriers are under pressure to deliver faster and in this rush several containers have been toppling over. Lately, there have been many incidents of container toppling over and getting lost at the sea, in recent times.
The high-speed delivery has sparked risks and errors in container safety. This has been the biggest recorded container loss spike in the last 7 years.
As many as 3000 boxes have been lost in the sea last year and in these first 4 months of 2021 more than 1000 containers have ended up in the ocean.
This has raised concerns among manufacturers and retailers like Tesla and Amazon who have faced quite a loss.
Their supply chains have been affected by this. The surge in e-commerce along with overstacking issues have been identified as the key reason behind this.
According to Clive Reed, founder of Reed Marine Maritime Casualty Management Consultancy has revealed that the high demand because of the e-commerce boom has resulted in more full capacity container ships than before. The industry has been under unprecedented pressure to deliver on time and take more voyages.
The ONE Apus incident that happened last November has rattled the industry. The ship had lost 1800 containers in high winds and waves.
A similar incident occurred in January when a Maersk ship had lost 750 containers. Another Maersk ship, Maersk Eindhoven met the same fate a month later when it lost 260 containers.
Experts have blamed the high-speed delivery for such disasters This has prompted actions such as incorrect box locking, no deviation to maintain timely delivery. Any of these wrong moves can make the crew and cargo more prone to adverse conditions which increases the risks
This problem has further escalated as the tired and exhausted crew have been made to work longer hours in the pandemic. At least 3 quarter of these problems have happened due to human error.
So far most of it has happened in the Pacific, the most deadly ocean having the busiest maritime traffic. This has been the most exploited trade route for shipping goods between China and the US.
As the traffic is rising so do the rough climatic conditions. The north pacific winds last year has been the strongest since 1948, revealed the Chief meteorologist of the Weather Company, Todd Crawford.
Although the loss of 1000 containers a year might seem insignificant, given 226 million are being shipped every year, yet it accounts for 60% of the monetary value of all container incidents.
ONE Apus has lost $90 million in cargo, as they lost $50,000 per box on an average because of the incident that happened last year. The total loss of ONE Apus last year had been estimated at $54.5 million.
The Suez Canal ship grounding and the blockage that had happened subsequently has escalated the concern further. While none of the recent accidents that have happened was due to safety losses yet the IMO has warned shippers to be cautious.
However, experts fear that the supply chain pressure has turned shipping more dangerous. Currently, ships are going into the storm rather than going around the storm. This when combined with poor maintenance and securing of boxes, results in more mishaps and container loss.
Ships become unstable in storms as they are stacked higher. Shippers don’t have control over them as they can’t see into the container box. So when they are stacked higher and topple during the rolling of the ship, nothing can be done.
The pandemic has reduced the manpower in ships and the exhausted crew has further heightened the risks. The IMO has put the onus on the flag state and the ports who are responsible for issuing safety certificates to ships and control the loading of containers respectively.
The IMO has scheduled a subcommittee level meeting in September to discuss the container loss issues. Companies should go around storms and ensure that proper maintenance and security checks are being followed.