Opinion: Eliminating the Risk of Container-Stack Collapses - Solutions and Unseaworthiness

16 Jun 2022 10:04 AM | Stacey Taylor - General Manager (Administrator)

Written By
Captain Glenn Mathias,
Australian Maritime Consultancy

Initially published by Ian Ackerman on Daily Cargo News

THE WORLD Shipping Council (WSC) claim that its member companies operate about three quarters of the world’s global containership capacity. In their Containers Lost at Sea 2020 – Update, they reported that the 3-year, 2017-2019, average annual loss of containers overboard was 779 units – a number adjusted upwards to include non-member companies. (The WSC have maintained such statistics since 2011). However, while the statistics end in 2019, the container vessel One Apus lost 1816 containers overboard in November 2020 and the Maersk Essen lost about 750 containers in January 2021.

When containers fall off a vessel, those that do not sink immediately, pose a risk to small craft such as fishing vessels, whose hulls would not withstand the force of contact with a container’s side rails or worse, its corner castings. And of course, contact with a recreational or charter boat could be tragic. The risks associated with containers washing ashore and damaging coastal works including jetties; their contents, including dangerous goods, strewn along coastlines and tourist beaches; their effects on the food chain, marine fauna and flora – are a discussion for another day. Comfort can be drawn from the fact that no crew injuries from flying projectiles and dangerous liquids ejected from collapsed and/or damaged containers, have been reported – yet.

The principal factors contributing to container stack collapses are two known defects: first, containers loaded contrary to the Container Securing Manual (CSM), such as heavy containers over lighter ones; and container stacks exceeding permissible weight limits; secondly, container stacks not secured as block units. While investigative reports include the defect associated with the CSM, the writer has not seen, (but acknowledges there could be), reports that refer to container stacks not being secured as block units. (Other contributory factors such as loose and/or degraded container securings and the commercial pressures on masters to navigate through the storm rather than around it to maintain schedules, could be overcome by shipowners exercising due diligence). But, while ever the two known defects exist, the risk of container stack collapses remain.

This article proposes solutions to eliminate the risk of container stack collapses first, by ensuring that container loading plans comply with the CSM, through computerised loading programs with fail-safe mechanisms; secondly, by making the Designated Person Ashore (DPA) responsible for oversighting container loading plans; and thirdly, by ensuring that container stacks are secured as block units. The article also proposes research for a safer container securing system; considers the seaworthiness of vessels at the commencement of their voyages with the two known defects; and the issue of cost to rectify the defects.

Continuing reading the full article here

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