What Happens When Shipping Containers Are Lost Overboard?

What Happens When Shipping Containers Are Lost Overboard?

November 19, 2021

Hundreds of millions of shipping containers sail across the sea each year. In fact, 80 percent of all shipped goods are transported on a cargo ship at one point or another. Unfortunately, some goods don’t make it to their intended destination. The World Shipping Council estimates that about 1,300 containers get lost at sea each year.

That’s a very small percentage of containers that go overboard, but even losing one container is a concern for the company who shipped the products and the customer who expected to receive it. This problem gets even worse when you consider some of the containers that go overboard are shipping HAZMAT items.

Keep reading for important FAQs on what happens when those shipping containers fall off the edge of their cargo ship.

Who’s responsible for lost containers?

The first question that pops up when a container doesn’t make it to the port is who’s to blame. At the end of the day, the shipping company responsible for transporting the cargo is held liable when containers get lost. That’s why these companies carry massive insurance policies to cover themselves in case of an emergency.

But just because the shipping company has insurance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also insure your goods before they’re loaded onto a cargo ship. Having plenty of insurance helps you sleep easy knowing you’re covered in the event of a wayward shipping container.

Do shipping containers float?

Because they’re not watertight, an empty shipping container will eventually sink. But the amount of time it takes a full container to sink depends on what’s in it and the container’s condition. An old, beaten-up container that’s full of heavy car parts will sink almost immediately, while a container filled with buoyant cargo can float for months, even if they’re waterlogged.

There’s even a story about a shipping container floating across the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean to Spain over the course of 15 months! Some containers have even been found washed up on beaches far away from their original shipping route.

Are those containers ever retrieved?

Any fallen shipping container poses a risk to wildlife and smaller ocean-going vessels. For that reason, there are companies dedicated to locating lost shipping containers, especially if they know their approximate location. This process is expedited when the cargo is hazardous to wildlife, like plastics or HAZMAT items.

The amount of time it takes to find these containers is another story. As we’ve seen from containers floating across an entire ocean, these large metal boxes can drift far off course, making their recovery all that much more difficult.

We’re the intermodal shipping experts

Let’s hope that your shipping container doesn’t go overboard anytime soon. But to ensure your products make it to their intended destination after they’re on land, trust our intermodal shipping pros at All Points Transport. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our expertise in shipping HAZMAT or to get a quote for our services. We’d love to schedule a consultation to learn more about your needs!

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