Container ships are having a rough time right now. In addition to extreme weather and power outages, ships sailing across the Pacific to the U.S. have lost 2,980 containers in only a few months. That’s more containers lost in just two months than the region usually loses in a whole year.
Did your new pair of Pumas never arrive? Well, I’m sorry to deliver some bad news, but an octopus is probably wearing them now. Container ships are getting caught in a perfect storm of bad weather and heavy traffic, reports Wired. The amount of goods shipped by container ship to the U.S. grew in recent months, leading to more ships crossing the ocean.
Those ships have lost at least 2,980 containers since November. According to American Shipper, these ships lost a year’s worth of lost cargo in only two months. These ships were carrying cargo like like Ikea furniture, Puma shoes, Kate Spade accessories, frozen shrimp and even vacuum cleaners. Investigations are underway to find out why ships have lost so much cargo to the ocean, but there are some possibilities.
The increased shipping traffic led to a container shortage. Ian Woods, a marine cargo lawyer and a partner with the firm Clyde & Co, says that some shippers may be filling the gap with worn out containers:
So it’s possible that shippers have pressed older, well-used containers into service, which are more likely to have defective or corroded lashing or locking mechanisms.
These ships are also filled to the brim for their passages to the States. These ships are more likely to experience parametric rolling, from Wired:
Parametric rolling happens when the time that passes between two adjacent waves suddenly lines up with the natural roll frequency of a ship, something that’s more likely to happen in bad weather. Adrian Onas, a professor of naval architecture at the Webb Institute, calls this a “heart attack of design”—difficult to detect when it’s beginning, and then devastating. Onboard, parametric rolling feels like abrupt, terrifying side-to-side movement, which quickly changes from just a few degrees to up to 35 or 40 degrees in each direction.
Shipping containers aren’t built to withstand the forces of being rocked by 35-degree rolling motions.
The biggest loss of these recent months came from the ONE Apus. It lost 1,816 containers after sailing into a strong storm on November 30. Drone video caught the loss and it’s stunning:
It’s not alone, as a couple of other ships also lost a lot of containers in one trip, too. Maersk Essen lost 750 containers on January 16. Maersk Eindhoven experienced a blackout and lost 260 containers on February 17, reports American Shipper.
What happens to shipping containers after they get launched overboard? Depending on the situation, some may be recovered a part of a salvage operation. Sail-World reports that others end up sinking or getting dragged out to sea, becoming hazards for other ships.
Some of the containers at the bottom of the ocean even create their own ocean wildlife habitats.