Last Wednesday, we posted about Svendborg Maersk, which last an estimated 520 containers in a storm in the Bay of Biscay. What happened to all the containers that fell overboard? One of them, loaded with a million cigarettes, may have just washed up on the beach in the Devon, England.
How many containers are washed over the side from container ship each year? No one really knows. There are an estimated five or six million shipping containers moving around across the globe. Depending on who you listen to, between 2,000 and 10,000 containers are lost over the side the world’s container ship fleet every year. The World Shipping Council, in contrast, claims that the average is closer to 350-675 containers yearly. Most are believed to sink to the ocean floor, leaving what Andrew DeVogelaere, a biologist with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, refers to as “highways of trash” on the ocean floor as the sunken containers accumulate over the years along the world’s major shipping lanes.
How many container continue floating and are hazards to navigation? Once again, no one really knows. Nevertheless, collisions between fishing vessels and sailboats are a serious problem. The the Irish national sail training vessel, Asgard II, she sank in the Bay of Biscay in 2008 after what was believed to be a collision with a floating container. The five crew and twenty trainees were able to abandon the vessel safely. Other have not been so lucky as reported in Ocean Navigator:
Perhaps the best documented incident of a collision with a container happened on Jan. 11, 2000. Marine investigators believe the British scallop trawler, Solway Harvester, struck a fully-loaded container in the Irish Sea killing all seven crewmembers. When rescuers arrived on the scene, plastic vats filled with mayonnaise were found floating near where the trawler went down.