IMO Strengthens Rules for Reporting of Containers Lost Overboard

containers in ocean
IMO amended the regulations for reporting containers lost overboard (IMO)

Published Jun 3, 2024 12:25 PM by The Maritime Executive


The rules governing the reporting of containers lost overboard are being amended starting in 2026 to require masters of vessels to report incidents and add specific requirements and a process to the reporting. The Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization recently finalized the efforts that began in May 2021 as the industry was suffering a spate of high-profile losses.

The World Shipping Council (WSC), the lobby organization representing carriers applauded the efforts calling them “a significant advancement in maritime safety and environmental protection. By ensuring prompt and detailed reporting of lost and drifting containers, these amendments will enhance navigational safety, facilitate swift response actions, and mitigate potential environmental hazards,” said Lars Kjaer, SVP Safety & Security for WSC.

Major carriers and organizations have been working on initiatives to reduce the number of containers lost overboard each year. WSC has also been tracking the losses released in an annual report (the next installment will be published in the coming weeks). In its last update, WSC reported that 661 containers were lost in 2022, an infinitesimal portion of the estimated 250 million containers moved each year. It was a record low according to WSC.

Despite the increases in the size of vessels and their container capacity, the industry has been making progress in reducing losses. WSC calculated the 15 year average (2008-2022) was 1,566 containers lost each year. With the large incidents including ONE Apus which lost an estimated 1,800 boxes during a Pacific crossing in November 2020 several incidents involving ships from Maersk, MSC, and others, the three-year average was over 2,300 between 2020 and 2022.

A variety of issues were identified including the impact of parametric rolling and how vessels could anticipate conditions and respond to the phenomenon. At the same time, there were calls for the IMO to increase its oversight of container losses.

“The changes to SOLAS now put in place show the IMO's commitment to improving maritime safety and environmental stewardship. By mandating detailed and timely reporting, as the WSC has been advocating, the maritime community can better tackle the challenges of lost containers, ensuring safer navigation and protecting our oceans,” the group said while applauding the IMO’s actions.

Starting January 1, 2026, the new amendments will require mandatory reporting of all containers lost at sea, setting a new standard for maritime safety and environmental protection. They cover the requirements for masters to report the losses, mandatory details (including the position of the lost containers, the total number lost, and if any contained dangerous goods), and reporting when containers are spotted drifting.

The master of a ship involved in the loss of containers must immediately and thoroughly report specific details to nearby ships, the nearest coastal state, and the flag state. The flag state will then pass the information to the IMO via a new module in the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).