What Happens When International Cargo is Lost at Sea?
When you are moving overseas and getting your household goods shipped via sea, you want to make sure that it reaches your destination intact. While most international shipping containers arrive safely, some get lost at sea. Who is to blame if this happens? Is there a way to receive compensation?
SDC International Shipping will cover these questions and more, but first, let’s see why shipping containers get lost.
Why Do Shipping Containers Get Lost During Sea Freight?
- The first and most common reason is bad weather conditions. Indeed, the strength of storms raging at sea is much greater than on land. So imagine how difficult it is to steer a ship when a storm hits. Due to the ship rolling and pitching too much, the tie-down rods that secure the containers on the deck loosen and cause them to fall into the sea. Storms contribute to sinking and, therefore, flooding, even more, to the loss of containers at sea.
- The second cause is poor stowage or fastening of containers. The current world of maritime transport can’t afford delays when delivering goods. It’s all about time and money, leading to an increased risk of mistakes.
- The third cause may be the overall state of the ship. When the anchorage cables or points on the deck deteriorate, there is a significant risk of breakage due to traction force.
- The fourth reason is inadequate automatic twist locks that have been used for several years.
- The last reason is the deliberate throwing of cargo overboard to save the ship from damage. The captain may decide to get rid of the cargo if, for example, the vessel is constantly leaning and wants to reduce the weight to straighten the vessel.
What Are the Chances Your Container Sinks In the Sea?
Let’s look at the statistical data.
WSC (World Shipping Council) analyzed twelve years (2008-2019) and reported that approximately 1,382 containers sink at sea each year. At the same time, more than 50% of all losses occur due to large-scale incidents, which are rare: the case of the MOL Comfort vessel (4293 containers were lost), the MV Rena (more than 900 containers), and the SS El Faro (517 containers were lost).
The average annual loss of containers seems to lessen, thanks to the decrease in major incidents. However, the industry admits that in any way, all containers lost at sea pose a safety and environmental hazard, regardless of how and when those containers were lost.
So what does this tell you? The numbers above mean that lost cargo accounts for only 1% of all the containers shipped yearly. Even more, each year, ocean freight becomes more reliable. So many shippers go for this shipping method over expensive air freight.
How to Solve Shipping Container Loss and Damage – Who to Blame?
Who is responsible for a lost or damaged shipment sent from point A to point B?
Under the laws, the carrier bears responsibility for lost containers since these companies are bonded and insured. Yet this doesn’t mean that the freight forwarder will compensate for everything. Usually, they take upon a limited liability, referring to a specific amount of consignment.
This leads us to a very important point. Although the risk of cargo loss is rather small, you should also be insured against these risks. You may consider marine insurance to settle your claims in case distress on the sea occurs. International moving insurance will also cover damaged household items. There are several coverage options to choose from based on your needs.
Stick to the following rules to claim compensation for lost and damaged items:
A Few Rules to Ensure You Get Compensation
- Get professional packers involved in packing and wrapping your personal belongings that will go in the container. Some insurance companies won’t compensate you unless you employ professional packing services. So check with your insurance company.
- Include the estimated value of most items. In case of cargo loss, you will be reimbursed exactly the cost of its declared value.
- It is important to detail the type of items or valuable items you are sending in a container. Be sure to indicate the model, color, size, brand, manufacturer, etc. You can’t just indicate “computer” in the documents because computers differ by brand, make, and model.
- You must have documents for the cargo you are sending. These will be proof of your ownership of the shipment and, accordingly, its value and characteristics.
- Don’t put your signature on the Bill of Lading unless you checked your items for missing parts or damage. Make notes and photos before shipping and after you receive your container.
- Keep all damaged items intact to get compensation. Never throw it away or refuse it.
- File a claim by completing the necessary paperwork. The carrier must take action within 30 days of the claim being submitted.
- You should report any issues to the carrier within 10-15 days of getting the shipping container.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens to containers that get lost at sea?
When containers fall off ocean ships, they are either removed (if the effort is worth it), stay on the ocean floor forever, or become floating containers.
How many containers were lost in 2021?
The World Shipping Council reports that 1,133 containers were sunk from 2020 to 2021, mainly due to rough weather conditions.
How many floating containers are in the world’s oceans?
Not all containers sink in the sea. Those that fall off the board are still floating in the open waters. Some biologists estimate at least 12,000 such containers, which pose a danger of collision to smaller ocean vessels like yachts and fishing boats.