IMO brings in a new mandate: Containers lost at sea must be reported

  • June 18, 2024
  • News

In a recent gathering of the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee (No. 108) in London, a significant stride was taken towards enhancing international maritime safety. Effective January 2026, ship captains are mandated to report any lost freight containers to nearby ships, the nearest coastal state, and the flag state administration. In cases of ship abandonment or incomplete reports, the shipping company bears the reporting responsibility, forwarding the information to the flag state. Additionally, captains must report sightings of drifting containers. The flag state will then relay this data to the IMO through the Global Integrated Shipping Information System.

Required details in these reports encompass information on the lost freight, timing, ship identification, position of container loss, quantity, type of goods (including hazardous materials), and container dimensions. Captains may also include additional data such as weather conditions and cargo spill descriptions. Lars Kjaer, SVP of Safety & Security for the World Shipping Council, hailed the decision as a substantial advancement in maritime safety and environmental protection. These amendments to SOLAS Chapter V Regulations 31 and 32 aim to bolster navigational safety, expedite response measures, and mitigate environmental risks.

The World Shipping Council lauded the IMO and its member states for their commitment to this matter and expressed anticipation for the successful enforcement of these regulations. The Council affirmed its dedication to collaborating with all stakeholders to ensure the secure and efficient transport of goods across the world’s oceans.

A summary by the global cargo insurer, the TT Club, noted that in 2019, out of approximately 226 million containers transported by sea, less than 1/1000th of one per cent were lost overboard, with around 568 containers lost annually, excluding incidents of ship sinking or grounding. Typically, lost containers sink to the seabed, though some remain afloat for days or weeks, posing collision risks with recreational or fishing vessels. Collisions with fully laden containers, especially those measuring 40 feet, can have catastrophic consequences for smaller boats.
Moreover, the release of container contents leads to marine pollution.