ONE Apus WK Webster
Photo: © W K Webster & Co Ltd

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made the reporting of containers lost overboard a legal requirement from 1 January 2026.

The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, which met at the organisation’s HQ in London last month, has formally adopted the new amendments to its Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) regulations and will require mandatory reporting of all containers lost at sea.

The amendment was welcomed by liner shipping lobby group the World Shipping Council (WSC).

VP of safety & security Lars Kjaer said: “The new regulations, specifically amending Solas Chapter V Regulations 31 and 32, mark 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.”

Solas Regulation 31 now states that 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 vessel’s flag state. The flag state will then pass this information to the IMO via a new module in the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS); and masters of ships that observe drifting containers must report that to nearby ships and the nearest coastal state.

Meanwhile, Regulation 32 covers the way details must be reported, and now states that for containers lost at sea reports must be made as soon as possible, with updates as more information becomes available. A final count of lost containers must be confirmed after a thorough inspection and mandatory details must include the position of the lost containers, the number lost and if any contained dangerous goods. Additional descriptive info is required if possible; and vessel captains are also encouraged to share voluntary details about the cargo, sea conditions, and more.

The WSC has been collecting data on the number of boxes lost overboard annualy, which revealed that every year between 2008 and 2022, an average of 1,566 were lost.

However, there are considerable variations each year. In 2022, the WSC calculated that just 661 boxes had been lost, while in 2013 it was nearly 6,000 – largely due to the sinking of the MOL Comfort, which saw 4,293 containers lost, and the grounding of the MSC Rena, which lost 900 boxes.

Another bad year was 2020, when almost 4,000 boxes were lost – including 1,500 from the One Apus and 750 from the Maersk Essen.

The WSC said the 2023 data on containers lost overboard would be published within the next few weeks.

“The changes to Solas now put in place show the IMO’s commitment to improving maritime safety and environmental stewardship,” it said. “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.”


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