Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes



Event date:
04/07/2019 - 00:00
Table of Contents
    how much is lost and what can we do about it?

    4 July 2019, DG MARE, Rue Joseph II 99,


    Summary of the workshop

    all presentations

    Opening remarks

    Andreea Strachinescu, Head of Unit A1 (DG MARE)

    Marine litter is a visible topic, subject to much media coverage. The Commission has recently taken measures to tackle marine litter both from land and sea sources and progress has been made. But there is still considerable uncertainty. More research needs to be done on the life cycle of marine litter. Furthermore, marine litter does not only cover plastic, but also other types of pollution coming from fishing, shipping, offshore floating platforms and containers at sea.

    This workshop focused on containers lost at sea, aiming to answer two main questions:

    1. How to prevent the loss of containers?
    2. How to mitigate their environmental impact?

    The objective of the workshop was to establish the state of play of containers lost at sea, and to gather ideas about how to tackle the problem. This workshop aimed to be an open and rather informal debate and attendees were invited to further cooperate on this topic with DG MARE.


    Lars Kjaer, Senior Vice President (World Shipping Council)

    For the period 2008-2016, an average of 1,582 containers were lost each year, including catastrophic events (defined as incidents where more than 50 containers are lost). From 2008 to 2016, 64% of containers lost were due to catastrophic events. Governments’ support is needed to improve container safety by enforcing existing legislation. For example, Verified gross mass (VGM) is now a legal requirement but maritime administrations do not enforce it. Governments also should promote the Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU code) and actively participate in the planed revision of the Code. Industry was actively involved in the development of the VGM requirements and the revision of ISO standards for lashing equipment and corner casting. It continues to be actively engaged on the issue of containers lost at sea. Industry is proposing to align stacking strength requirements between ISO (213,000 kg) and the Safe Container Convention (192,000 kg); this discrepancy has been identified as a contributing factor in container stack collapses. The industry also supports an international mandatory reporting system for containers lost at sea to be developed by the IMO.

    Antidia Citores, Legal, Lobbying and Campaign Manager (Surfrider Foundation Europe)

    Surfrider recently released a report on lost containers. As mentioned in this report, only 2,6% of lost containers are recovered each year according to estimations, and once lost they stay at sea or on the shore. There are still parts of the litter coming from lost containers that cannot be cleaned up, and constitute persistent pollution. Among container incidents, 32% are due to mis-declarations and 27% due to poor stowage and packing (including the state of the container). These results highlight the need to update the code of good practice for cargo loading developed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United National Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Surfrider’s recommendations for container safety comprise (but are not limited to):

    • Ensure and police “ship planning” vessel compliance
    • Ensure proper transparency on container losses
    • Facilitate container traceability and visibility to boost their recovery
    • Clarify the legal status of lost containers and related liabilities
    • Make several safety measures mandatory

    Bert Wassink, Mayor of Terscheling municipality

    Following the MSC ZOE incident, containers and litter were found on beaches for kilometres, including (but not limited to) furniture, toys, clothes and appliances. The most problematic items were plastic pellets and packing material, as they were too small to be cleaned-up and spread everywhere with the wind. The cleaning effort involved hundreds of volunteers and soldiers and costed €260,000 to island municipalities and €777,296 to private companies. In the future, stormy weather is expected to occur more often due to climate change, thus increasing the risk of container loss and spread of litter. The following measures need to be taken internationally to prevent container loss, as the huge financial impact to the relevant municipalities and to the environment is not acceptable:

    • Lashing of cargos
    • Adequate vessel planning system
    • GPS tracking of containers at sea (surface and underwater), especially for dangerous good
    • Financial agreement and contingency plans

    State of play on lost containers

    Speakers from various perspectives gave a series of presentations aiming to provide a balanced overview and food for thought on the current state of play and possible future developments relating to the loss of containers from ships.

    Marine equipment, accident investigation perspectives, John Burke (DG MOVE)

    Lost containers is a multifaceted issue; from the loading of the containers to the investigation of accidents. Loading a ship constitutes a 3D puzzle, taking into consideration the containers specificity (normal or refrigerated), containers already on board, the route planned and type of cargo. Shipping is a global business, thus rules have to be adopted worldwide. The Commission has identified issues with the verified gross mass, mis-declaration of container contents and stacking strength standards, which need to be addressed and enforced and where more transparency is needed. In recent years, there has been an increase in container fires, most of which were associated with cargo mis-declarations. The maritime accident directive (Directive 2009/18/EC) applies to lost containers and the figures for lost containers from EU ships worldwide or lost in EU waters reported to the EU maritime casualty information platform (EMCIP) is in the order of 350-400 per year, which is broadly in line with the worldwide data from WSC. The Nairobi Convention on removal of wrecks can include lost containers and applies to EEZs of EU Member States but has only been ratified by 14 EU Member States, it is however  optional for territorial waters.

    Vessel traffic monitoring and incident reporting, including on containers lost at sea, Union Maritime Information and Exchange System, Jacob Terling (DG MOVE)

    The growth of trade and therefore the shipping industry reflects the public’s demand for imported goods: the entire responsibility chain needs to be considered and the issue of lost container put in context. Ways to mitigate effects of container lost at sea include detection, reporting and tracking. A system established under the EU VTMIS Directive (2002/59/EC) – the Union Maritime Information and Exchange System (SafeSeaNet) – includes mandatory provisions for the reporting of lost or spotted containers at sea. This is already in operation since 2009 and is complemented by Incident Reporting Guidelines, developed by MS with the input from industry. This could serve as a basis for a mandatory international reporting system

    The system can track and trace ships and via the Automated Behaviour Monitoring function ‘mark’ an area at sea where there is a suspect danger to navigation (e.g. floating containers). Developments are underway to explore if using satellites for earth observation (Copernicus) can help improve the detection of containers lost at sea. What is missing, and where attention could be given, relates to actions for removing from sea and handling ashore. This is currently outside the mandate of the European Maritime Safety Agency.

    Environmental impact from lost containers, Michail Georgios Papadoyannakis (DG ENV)

    The Marine Strategy Framework Directive focuses on the marine environment but does not regulate any particular activities, while one of the objectives of the amended Waste Framework Directive (WFD) is to halt marine litter. Movable property which the holder discards, or intends to discard, or is required to discard is considered waste. Lost containers could therefore fall under the scope of WFD; they are currently not in the scope of IMO MARPOL Annex V. Microplastic pellets could become subject to reporting under REACH, according to the restriction dossier submitted by the EU chemicals agency (ECHA). The environmental liability Directive (ELD) requires preventive and remedial action, according to the “polluter pays” principle, which is enshrined in the EU Treaty and in international commitments; however, it might not always be possible to link environmental damage with some impacts from lost containers (e.g. beach littering), which would be necessary for triggering the ELD. To improve the management of waste from ships in ports and to reduce discharges from ships at sea, the Port Reception Facilities Directive was recently revised, strengthening the delivery requirements through a mix of incentives and enforcement measures. Further to EU legislation a number of international conventions and activities could be related directly or indirectly to environmental impact of lost ship containers, including the Nairobi and HNS Conventions.

    Concerns and experience of P&I industry on lost containers, Bjarne Augestad (Gard/P&I)

    According to Gard/P&I, fires and container loss are the most expensive incidents. Self-igniting cargos are mostly due to mis-declarations of dangerous goods. Companies currently have no requirement to specify which goods are inside the containers, nor their weight. Correct declaration and better compliance would increase container safety. There are also issues with fully automatic twistlocks, which failed at 29-51% of required load during testing. According to Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) statistics, 10,849 out of 22,556 booking incidents were deemed to be dangerous goods fraud by the shipper. This issue cannot be solved by the industry alone, and needs support from governments.

    Effects of the MSC Zoe incident on the Dutch Fishing for Litter programme and on fishers who participate, Mike Mannaart (KIMO)

    KIMO (Municipalities for sustainable seas) organise fishermen and ports in Fishing For Litter (FFL) activities in eight ports. Fishermen collect marine litter caught in nets during normal fishing activities and deliver it to specific port facilities. The Dutch FFL collects approximately 300 tonnes of marine litter annually. Following the MSC Zoe incident, thousands of additional tonnes of litter were lost in the northern part of the Dutch North Sea. FFL could help recovering it, but additional measures and funds are needed. Who is liable for the cost of the environmental damage?

    KIMO’s work towards safer container shipping including strengthening the requirements of liability and compensation, in line with the ‘polluter pays principle’, Albert de Hoop (KIMO)

    The growth of the shipping industry in the last 30 years has been too important for governments to keep up with. KIMO calls for the establishment of a Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with Carriage of Non-Toxic Substances including strict liability on ship owners for pollution from their vessels, compulsory insurance for all vessels and a reserve fund to cover any shortfalls in compensation.

    Fishing community actions after the MSC Zoe lost containers accident, Barbara Holierhoek, (Fisheries association, Netherlands)

    Fishermen contributed to the major clean-up after the MSC ZOE incident, assisted by air by coastguards and in close cooperation with lighthouses. Dutch fishermen alone removed 200 tonnes of litter annually from the North Sea by participating in Fishing For Litter. Some vessels are currently trying to clean up bottom of the North Sea, with a recently launched pilot.

    Incident management and coordination of MSC Zoe incident, Investigation on tagging containers, Joris Brouwers (Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, The Netherlands)

    Authorities worked in close coordination with MSC for incident management, and cooperated with Germany. The Dutch state holds MSC liable and obliged MSC to finance the salvage operation. Maritime police and Coast Guard started a criminal investigation. There was also an independent investigation by the Dutch safety board. A quick scan on container tracking methods and location of plastics, as well as a hydrographic survey of the entire Waddensea area will be completed in 2019. So far, 2,383 out of 3,2000 tonnes have been retrieved, which does not include what was collected by volunteers and fishermen during the surface clean up that took place in the first few days following the accident.  Investigations will be completed in 2020. The Netherlands Shipping Inspectorate focuses on cargo securing

    Traffic Separation Schemes in the North Sea by Germany, Uwe Lohmann, Maritime Safety Division (Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Germany)

    Once lost, containers lay broken into pieces on the seafloor, making their identification and retrieval difficult. International level regulation for cargo securing and tracing is required. Measures should be requested from IMO upon presentation of the accident investigation report on MSC Zoe. Any object sunk or drifting, needs to be treated as a shipwreck, as stated by the Nairobi International Convention On Waste Removal, 2007. While focusing on stopping plastic pollution, the MARPOL convention is the relevant provision for plastic waste. MEPC established a Correspondence Group to develop further the Action Plan on Marine Plastic Litter from ships. IMO only can decide about routing measure, which need to take into consideration bathymetry, traffic density, hydrological conditions, behaviour or very large container ships and the legal basis for reorganisation of shipping routes.

    France's experience with container loss at sea and its potential future actions, Amaury Meullenaere (Maritime and rescue office, France)

    France is very exposed to container loss and suffered several incidents involving container ships during the past few years. When losses of containers or ships occur, French authorities send a formal notice to require the shipowner to take every necessary step to fix the incident and come back to initial status, which is not always technically feasible (i.e. when too deep to allow removal of litter). Every legal instruments, both national and international are referenced, including the Nairobi Convention. France supports and promotes various initiatives on container safety in partnership with industry and NGOs. For example, we are currently working on tracking and recovery with SeaTrackBox, a French company developing technical solutions on tracking of containers lost at sea, it should be tested in May 2020 and presented at MSC102. The expected cost of the trackers remain expensive (2,000 euros per system) but could be supported by insurance companies, the operational cost for the company would therefore be around 100 euros per voyage. Containers fire prevention and firefighting should also be addressed in the context of prevention of container loss.

    ISO lashing standard (IO 3874:2017), Michel Hennemand, Independent Expert, (Bureau International des Containers), Convenor ISO TC104 SC1 WG1

    ISO TC104 ORGANIZATION 2019 standards were presented. The failure of corner casting was identified as a problem, and standards were updated to automatic twist locks, even though there is room for permanent upgrading of standards to maintain container safety. There could be an opposition from the manufacturer side against some measures as they would increase the price of containers.

    SUMMARY OF round-table discussions

    What steps to take (different levels and stakeholders) to prevent container loss? Moderator: DG MOVE

    1. Identification of causes of container loss
    • Lack of enforcement and implementation of existing legislation;
    • Mislabeling and mis-declaration: shippers are shipping dangerous good in total impunity;
    • Inaccurate weigh information of containers;
    • Faulty connections between containers and improper loading of containers.
    1. Proposals to prevent container loss
    • Safety measures to be taken on the ship side (i.e. cargo securing), and on the industry side (i.e. in-container securing, correct declarations);
    • Raise awareness of liabilities and ethics;
    • Set-up containers inspection programmes for physical state of containers, identifications of mis-declarations and verified gross mass (move towards a single method with a third party inspection);
    • Increase collaboration between competent authorities to enforce existing legislation;
    • ISO standard could be turned into an IMO standard;
    • Traffic monitoring should be involved to establish a heavy weather avoidance course for ships;
    • Maintenance and examination schedules for containers;
    • Engage with shippers;
    • Break down silos;
    • Develop guidelines setting out obligations on all parties;
    • Ensure that mis-declarations and non-declarations of dangerous goods are fined/prosecuted.

    What steps to take to mitigate negative consequences from container loss to the environment?  Moderator: DG ENV

    The discussion revealed that the topic is cross-sectoral and linked to prevention actions, therefore the proposals from participants are grouped (a non-priority order) by:

    1. Proposals to mitigate environmental consequences
    • There is a need for fast payment mechanisms to cover cleaning costs by local municipalities/ governments;
    • A need for effective and fast response mechanisms in case of accidents (e.g. to identify polluter) both on EU and Member States level; involvement of EMSA could be examined;
    • Insurance to cover mitigation from lost containers?
    • Consider/examine good practices;
    • Need for effective mechanisms to establish/quantify a harm made to environment from container loss.
    1. Proposals to prevent container loss
    • To apply EU and global "Polluter pays" principle;
    • Shipowner liability for environmental damage from container loss – embedded in Nairobi convention (just few EU countries have ratified it) and partly in Environmental liability directive (does not necessarily cover mitigation from lost containers);
    • Look at good practices of response mechanisms elsewhere (e.g. oil pollution response mechanisms and fund);
    • Mandatory reporting e.g. on number and exact content of lost containers;
    • To address the mis-declaration of container content especially on dangerous goods;
    • A need for EU level training on effective response mechanisms;
    • All EU Member States to ratify and set response mechanisms according to Nairobi convention (sets responsibility to recover lost containers), HNS Convention (sets provisions for insurance);
    • CTU code (IMO; ILO; UNECE) – addresses safe packing of containers - there is need for more awareness.

    Conclusions / follow-up  

    The participants discussed the multifaceted aspects of the lost containers issue. There were several requests to organise such workshops in future and in particular, the following proposals during the final discussion were made:

    1. To  involve P&I Clubs in order to describe insurance arrangements, liabilities and compensations in case of containers lost at sea, and to whom those liabilities apply (shipowner vs. ship operator);
    2. Feasibility of an environmental liability fund for environmental damage from lost containers (similar to oil pollution fund);
    3. Examine the need/usefulness of collective and coordinated response mechanisms, with the involvement of EMSA;
    4. To involve DG Research and Innovation (RTD);
    5. Involve shippers(beneficial cargo owners (BCO)) and consolidators (challenge: Dependent on trade lanes, up to 70% of containerized shipments brought into the EU are controlled by consolidators and may contain cargo from multiple companies;
    6. To involve TAXUD, customs, who have lot of relevant data on container content (from the import declarations lodged at importation);
    7. To involve shippers, freight forwarders and non-vessel operating common carriers – i.e. those who complete declarations and pack cargoes into containers;
    8. Support an international mandatory reporting system requirement: the EU reporting system could provide a model to set-up an international system;
    9. Collaboration on the promotion of the CTU code and, once revision work is started, the EU, Member States and the industry could also cooperate to identify the needs for improvement in the CTU code;
    10. Reflect as to how enforcement could be improved without excessive costs and administrative burden.



    Annex: List of participants

    Name & Surname

    Position & Organization

    BURKE, John

    DG MOVE, European Commission

    TERLING, Jacob

    DG MOVE, European Commission

    PROUT, Sian

    DG MOVE, European Commission, Head of Unit


    DG ENV, European Commission


    DG MARE, European Commission, Head of Unit


    DG MARE, European Commission

    SHEPERD, Iain

    DG MARE, European Commission

    STULGIS, Maris

    DG MARE, European Commission

    KHAIRA, Aneesha

    DG MARE, European Commission

    HOLIERHOEK, Barbara

    President of two local Fishermen Associations in the Waddensea region

    BROUWERS, Joris

    Senior policy advisor shipping, Ministry of Infrastructure and Waterways, the Netherlands

    LOHMANN, Uwe

    Federal Ministry of Transport and digital Infrastructure, Germany

    MARDAKI, Theodora

    Permanent Representation of Greece to the EU


    Head of ship safety and regulation unit, French maritime administration

    VERHALLEN, Petrus Jacobus Joannes Maria

    Investigator Dutch Safety Board

    RECHE, Jan

    Head of Maritime Safety Division, Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Germany


    Maritime Attaché, Cyprus Permanent Representation to the EU

    VAN HIJUM, Marieke

    Investigator, Dutch Safety Board

    VERBREE, Rosanne

    Policy officer at the at the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands

    WASSINK, Johan Bertus (Bert)

    Mayor of the municipality of Terschelling, representing the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands and the KIMO.

    ABBATE, Claudio

    Mediterranean Shipping Company SA, Group Vice President, Maritime Policy and Government Affairs

    BRUDEVOLL, Anders

    Science Policy Advisor, JPI Oceans


    Research Officer, International Chamber of Shipping

    CROO, Henk

    Adviseur FOD Mobiliteit en Vervoer Belgium

    DE HOOP, Albert

    Former president of Kimo Int. and former Mayor of Ameland, Netherland

    FLOREA, Letitia

    Waste Free Oceans

    HENNEMAND, Michel

    Independent Expert, BIC (Bureau International des Containers); Convenor ISO TC104 SC1 WG1 (and former Chairman ISO TC104 SC1)

    HWANG, Yi-Syou

    Captain, Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) Ltd.

    LOSSY, Fanny

    Senior Policy Advisor, Maritime Safety, Environment & Offshore, European Community Shipowners’ Association

    MANNAART, Michael

    Liaison Officer KIMO International & Executive Secretary KIMO NL/B

    MORETTI, Pier Francesco

    Scientific Officer, JPI Oceans

    STORRS-FOX, Peregrine

    Risk Management Director, TT Club Mutual Insurance Ltd


    Senior Adviser Nautical Affairs, Royal Association of Netherlands Ship-owners

    VAN DER WURFF, Andreas M

    General Manager, Maersk Line

    BOLOMINI, David

    International Group of P&I Clubs "IG"

    CITORES, Antidia

    Spokesperson and Manager, Surfrider Foundation Europe

    KJAER, Lars

    Senior Vice President, World Shipping Council (WSC)

    MERRYLEES, Robert

    Policy Manager & Analyst, UK Chamber of Shipping

    MONGODIN, Frederique

    Marine litter policy officer, SEAS AT RISK

    SCHMUCK, Siegfried Anton

    Policy Officer Marine Litter, SCIAENA

    SMAOUI, Malek

    Programme Officer (OPRC), REMPEC (IMO-UNEP/MAP)

    VAN GALEN, Ewout

    Programme Manager, Clean Sea

    LA FERLA, Emma

    Technical Attaché, Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU

    SCOPELLITI, Marzia

    Marine Litter Solutions Intern, Plastics Europe


    EMSA Head of Unit - Vessel and Port Reporting