maritime safety

Riding the waves of cargo loss: a deep dive into maritime safety

In recent years, the maritime industry has seen a significant improvement in container safety. The number of lost containers at sea has dropped by an impressive 85%, going from 4,407 in 2008 to just 661 in 2022, as reported by the World Shipping Council (WSC). This decrease is the result of various factors that have changed how the industry views cargo security and safety.


Unmasking the mysterious causes of cargo loss

But why have these numbers dipped below the waves like a sunken treasure chest? To unravel this maritime mystery, we need to dive deep into the causes of cargo loss.

Throughout history, keeping cargo safe at sea has been a challenge. A long time ago, when explorers like Columbus and Magellan were sailing the seas, they didn’t pay much attention to securing cargo. Rough weather, improper stowage, and equipment failure were common culprits. If cargo wasn’t secured properly, it could end up lost at sea. This was a big problem because losing cargo meant losing money, and sometimes it even meant danger for the ship and its crew.

As time went on, people realised that they needed better ways to keep cargo secure. This is when the idea of “lashing” came into play. Lashing means tying down cargo with ropes, chains, and wooden bracing to prevent it from moving around during the voyage. It was a big step forward in making cargo more secure.

In the 20th century, cargo security took a giant leap forward. Modern methods for securing cargo, like twist locks and turnbuckles, became common. It was also the big introduction of shipping containers. These containers made cargo much safer because they could be stacked and secured easily on ships.

Cargo security, including lashing, has kept getting better along with the rest of the shipping world. Today, it’s like a mix of science and art, combining old knowledge with new technology. Smart sensors, advanced materials, and automated systems have ushered in a new era of cargo safety. As the shipping world keeps moving forward, we can expect even better ways to keep cargo safe.

Historical incidents, like the ones involving the MSC Napoli, MOL Comfort, and Ever Given, were wake-up calls for the industry. They showed how important it was to have strong and reliable solutions for cargo security. These events emphasised the need for better ways to secure cargo and prevent disasters.


Environmental and economic consequences: more than just lost treasure

The financial impact of cargo loss is significant. It’s not just about losing money for the people sending the cargo. When cargo is lost, it messes up the way things are supposed to be delivered, which causes delays and makes everything more expensive. The cost of insurance also goes up, which means it costs more to do business. This affects lots of different industries and can even affect the whole world’s economy.

Losing cargo doesn’t only hurt people’s wallets; it also hurts the environment. When containers and cargo get lost in the sea, it can create pollution and harm the homes of sea creatures. If the lost cargo has dangerous stuff in it, it can be even worse, potentially hurting the environment and wildlife for a long time. After all, what’s a treasure without a beautiful sea to sail on?


Sailing safely through regulations and standards

It’s time to talk about regulations, but we promise not to make it a bore! In the maritime industry, the rules and safety standards for cargo loss are established within the SOLAS treaty, the “International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.” These requirements include:

  • Compliant Loading and Unloading: Cargo must be loaded and unloaded in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Secure Fastening: Cargo must be secured with adequate straps, chains, or other fasteners.
  • Stability Preservation: Loading and unloading procedures should not compromise the ship’s stability.
  • Legal Compliance: Cargo operations must adhere to the laws and regulations of both the country of origin and the destination.


Education and training: the human element

The real treasures of the maritime world are the people who sail its waters. Well-trained staff is super important for keeping cargo safe on ships. They know how to handle and secure cargo properly. They also understand the rules and can spot problems, like bad weather or broken equipment, and fix them. They make sure everything is safe for the cargo, the ship, the crew, and the environment. So, training staff is like making sure everything goes well in the world of shipping.


Mastering cargo security: best practices for a smooth sailing

  1. Proper stowage and securing: First and foremost, it’s important to place cargo in a secure manner within the vessel. Each item should have its own place, and use securing materials like ropes, chains, or twist locks to prevent movement during transit. This step is the foundation of keeping cargo in place, even in challenging conditions.
  2. Balancing the ship: Maintaining the ship’s balance is crucial. Loading cargo in a balanced way prevents the ship from leaning to one side. An unbalanced ship is not only inefficient but can also be dangerous. Correct weight distribution is key to safe navigation.
  3. The importance of lashing: Lashing, which involves securely fastening cargo using straps and other restraints, is a critical practice. It ensures that cargo remains firmly in place and doesn’t shift, even in turbulent conditions. Proper lashing acts as the ship’s seatbelt, holding everything securely in position.
  4. Understanding your cargo: Knowing the nature of the cargo is vital. Different goods require different securing methods. Dangerous materials, for instance, need specialised handling and containment. A good practice is to have clear labels indicating the content and any special handling requirements.
  5. Regular inspections: Frequent cargo inspections are a proactive approach to ensure security. Before embarking on a journey, during stops, and upon arrival, cargo should be inspected. Any signs of damage or potential issues should be addressed promptly.
  6. Weather awareness: Stay informed about the weather conditions along the route. Cargo securing measures may need to be adjusted based on anticipated weather patterns. In adverse conditions, cargo should be double-checked to prevent surprises.
  7. Utilising technology: Embrace technology to enhance cargo security. Smart sensors and automated systems can provide real-time data on the status of cargo, offering insights into any potential issues during transit.


Say yes to safer seas

The maritime industry has come a long way in enhancing cargo safety, with a significant drop in lost containers at sea. Historical practices have evolved into a blend of science and art, incorporating regulations from the SOLAS treaty. Well-trained personnel play a crucial role in securing cargo, while best practices such as proper stowage, balancing the ship, effective lashing, cargo knowledge, regular inspections, weather awareness, and technology utilisation contribute to a safer maritime future.


From Antwerp’s harbour to global success: ILS’ journey in cargo security

Just like the vibrant port of Antwerp, where ILS calls home, our story is a journey through time. Over 40 years ago, in the charming ‘t Eilandje neighbourhood of Antwerp, British traders first set up shop.

Much like Antwerp’s port has grown into a global maritime hub, we’ve blossomed from a small warehouse into a top player in cargo security tech.

Today, we’re proud suppliers of top-tier securing solutions, ensuring cargo ships sail smoothly and safely. Our motto? Protecting your cargo with quality products at unbeatable prices. Our experienced team is here to guide shipowners, shipyards, and design firms for swift and secure voyages.


World shipping council. (2023). World Shipping Council Releases Containers Lost at Sea Report – 2023 Update

Safety4sea. (2023). WSC report: 661 containers lost at sea in 2022

World shipping council. (2023). Containers Lost at Sea – 2023 Update