Lost containers and the 2021 Transpac

Published on April 27th, 2021

With nearly 60 boats entered for the 51st edition of the biennial Los Angeles to Honolulu Transpac Race, there is a lot to think about before setting off on the 2225 nm Pacific Ocean course in mid-July.

Such as how to avoid floating containers.

After an unidentified object sunk the Santa Cruz 70 OEX in the 2019 edition, the 2021 fleet might be now pondering how the shipping industry is seeing its biggest spike in lost containers in seven years.

Containers piled high on giant vessels carrying everything from car tires to smartphones are toppling over at an alarming rate, sending millions of dollars of cargo sinking to the bottom of the ocean as pressure to speed deliveries raises the risk of safety errors.

More than 3,000 boxes dropped into the sea last year, and more than 1,000 have fallen overboard so far in 2021.

There are a host of reasons for the sudden rise in accidents. Weather is getting more unpredictable, while ships are growing bigger, allowing for containers to be stacked higher than ever before.

But greatly exacerbating the situation is a surge in e-commerce after consumer demand exploded during the pandemic, increasing the urgency for shipping lines to deliver products as quickly as possible.

“The increased movement of containers means that these very large containerships are much closer to full capacity than in the past,” said Clive Reed, founder of Reed Marine Maritime Casualty Management Consultancy. “There is commercial pressure on the ships to arrive on time and consequently make more voyages.”

The need for speed is creating precarious conditions that can quickly bring disaster, according to shipping experts. The dangers range from stevedores incorrectly locking boxes on top of one another to captains not deviating from a storm to save on fuel and time as they face pressure from charterers, they said. One wrong move can put cargoes and crew at risk.

Almost all the recent incidents have occurred in the Pacific Ocean, a region where the busiest traffic and the worst weather collide. The sea route connecting Asia’s economies to consumers in

With 226 million container boxes shipped each year, the loss of 1,000 or more can seem like a very small percentage lost… unless one of those boxes is floating at waterline height in front of field of fast sailboats surfing toward Hawaii.

Event informationRace detailsEntry list

2021 Schedule
First Start – July 13
Second Start – July 16
Third Start – July 17
Fast Multihull and/or Fast Monohull Yacht Start – TBD (if needed)
Honolulu Awards Ceremony – July 30

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