Monday, April 5, 2010

Shipping Containers, The New Plastic Bags of the Seas

The idea of shipping containers seems to have come about in the 1950’s. The standardisation of said containers started to occur in the 1970’s, to make things more uniform and easier to transport.

When exports and imports where almost even, it was easy to balance the number of containers in and out. When we became a ‘throw-away’ society things changed. The western world looked for cheaper items, which meant more often than not things were cheaper to purchase from overseas than to be bought within our own country. The changing shape of the dollar also ensured that imports were cheaper than locally manufactured and bought products.

This left empty shipping containers strewn all over the coasts of westernised societies, all over the world. The west now import far more than they export, leaving a glut of containers in the ports.

There are certainly a myriad of different uses for shipping containers, being thought up every day, from onsite storage as has been seen in the natural disasters, to hotels and restaurants.

More often than not, shipping containers are being used to ship items that previously were shipped below deck within the confines of the hull, they are now being shipped on deck in containers. Things like paper, machine parts, cars, all sorts of things. This creates another hazard. The more things shipped on decks (in containers) leaves more items to fall into the sea.

Recently, off the coast of Australia 32 containers, which contained Ammonium Nitrate were lost overboard. This not only created a shipping hazard, but also a pollution problem. That loss was off one ship. It is estimated that something like 10,000 containers are lost overboard every year world-wide, perhaps far more. The doors fail and allow the containers to pour into the oceans.

Rarely do containers float for longer than 1 week, sometimes controlled atmosphere containers will float for indefinite periods. Once upon a time it was acceptable to use the container as target practice by the local armed forces, until it had sunk, but this is no longer an acceptable practice, due to pollutions issues and the containers must now be towed to shore and salvaged.

It is estimated that something like 7 billions tonnes of rubbish enter the oceans per year and that something like 700,000 to 1 million birds and sea life is killed every year due to this waste.

Don’t toss it and try where possible to recycle it, re-use it. Use groups like (A world-wide voluntary organisation) and do your bit for you and your childrens’ future


  1. Great writing. Scary story. Fascinating facts. Real good post, Heather! Best regards, P. :)

  2. That was interesting. I had no idea it was such a problem. I see ships in the bay with containers stacked on their decks and they look very precarious. Of course, pollution of the sea is very topical, looking up north.

  3. Paul - thanks for the comments!

    Andrew - If I told you that I wrote that post over 6 months ago - and it auto=posted today - woulkd you believe me? - I have posts of the fluffy kind and serious - going until May-June, set to publish every 2-3 days!
    There is a photo a saw while researching this, that showed an area in the ocean, that you could walk on - that is how thick the rubbish was - it's like a backwater in the middle of the ocean. All very interesting and VERY scary.

    Thank-you both for your comments!