Lost At Sea

Container Ship At Sea With Containers Falling Into The Ocean

With the recent collision of the shipping vessel Dali into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, we thought we would take a look at a few key factors that surround this incident that took the lives of six construction workers that we working on the bridge at the time and dumped 56 containers of hazardous materials into the lower Patapsco River and outer Baltimore Harbor / Port.

The contents of those containers were: corrosives, flammables and lithium ion batteries. The categories “corrosives” and “flammables” is a very broad category that could include a variety – a smorgasbord – of chemicals that none the wiser have ever heard of. It should be noted that some of the containers were breached, and that a sheen was floating on the water from the release of those chemicals.

It should be no surprise that being a harbor means that those chemicals will be making their way into the ocean, after completing the task of obliterating the surrounding water of any life that was there; in and out of the water.

There are on average, 1,300 shipping containers that fall into the ocean on any given year.

How Many Containers Fall Overboard From Shipping Vessels Every Year

The long term effects of shipping containers in the ocean. Shipping containers lost at sea can have several long-term effects on the ocean environment

Marine Pollution: Lost shipping containers contribute to marine pollution. These containers often contain various goods, including plastics, metals, chemicals, and other materials. When they enter the ocean, these materials can leach into the water, posing a threat to marine life.

Habitat Destruction: Large shipping containers can disrupt marine habitats when they sink to the ocean floor. They can crush coral reefs, destroy underwater ecosystems, and alter the landscape of the seabed, affecting the habitats of various marine organisms.

Ghost Fishing: Lost containers can become hazards for marine life by acting as traps or obstacles. They can entangle marine animals such as fish, turtles, and marine mammals, leading to injury or death. This phenomenon is often referred to as “ghost fishing.”

Chemical Contamination: Some shipping containers carry hazardous materials, including chemicals and pollutants. When these containers are lost at sea, there is a risk of these substances leaking into the water, causing contamination and potentially harming marine organisms and ecosystems.

Navigation Hazards: Floating or partially submerged shipping containers can pose hazards to navigation for ships and boats. Collisions with these containers can cause damage to vessels, endangering the lives of crew members and passengers.

Economic Costs: The loss of shipping containers at sea can result in significant economic costs for shipping companies, insurers, and governments. The recovery efforts, cleanup operations, and potential compensation for lost cargo can be substantial.

Microplastics: Over time, shipping containers degrade in the marine environment, releasing microplastics into the water. These microplastics can be ingested by marine organisms, potentially entering the food chain and causing harm to marine life.

Efforts to mitigate the long-term effects of shipping containers in the ocean include improved container security measures, stricter regulations on cargo loading and securing, development of better tracking technologies, and enhanced cleanup and recovery operations for lost containers. Additionally, raising awareness about the environmental impacts of lost shipping containers and promoting responsible maritime practices are crucial steps toward minimizing these effects.

What metal are shipping containers made of? Shipping containers are primarily made of steel. The steel used in shipping containers is typically a type of corrosion-resistant steel, such as Corten steel. Corten steel contains alloys like copper, chromium, and nickel that provide it with enhanced resistance to atmospheric corrosion. This makes it suitable for use in harsh environments like marine settings where exposure to saltwater and other corrosive elements is common. The use of Corten steel helps to ensure that shipping containers have a long service life and can withstand the rigors of international transport and storage.