Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Between 2,000-and-10,000 shipping containers fall into the ocean each year - One has been found in the Monterey Bay marine sanctuary!

On February 4th 2004, the merchant vessel Med Taipei set sail from San Francisco heading due south to the port of Los Angeles. A terrible winter storm was raging that day delivering swells up to 21-to-27-meters in height which for the crew must have felt like they were sailing a "cork" through a "flushing toilet." Consequently they lost some freight; 14 containers in all and now one of those containers has been found in the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary.

Two years after the incident a $3.25-million settlement was paid by the shipping company to the US government agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to settle all claims. Some of that money is going towards locating all 14-containers. An ambitious task since containers will float for a period of time before sinking so GPS coordinates as to where an accident happened may not be accurate but the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has taken up the quest.

After some heavy duty ocean reconnaissance, the MBARI found a container. After tracing numbers on the side of the upside down container, they were able to connect the contents to a US customs manifest stating if is filled with over 1,159 steel-belted radials. Other containers lost that day had similar "inert" contents such as metal fencing, mattress pads, and other urban junk that is essentially not so harmful when the contents are compared to 55-gallon drums of acetone, benzene, or powered bleach.

From the MBARI site:

The merchant vessel Med Taipei left San Francisco on February 25, 2004, in the middle of a winter storm. As the ship steamed south toward the Port of Los Angeles, it began rolling violently in seven- to nine-meter (23- to 30-foot) swells. In a rush to get his goods to port, the captain continued southward at high speed, despite the rolls. Unbeknownst to the captain and crew, the containers on their ship had been stacked incorrectly, with massive, heavy containers perched on top of lighter ones.

Imagine you are the Captain or a crew member and you find out that your container ship could have capsized that day! Nonetheless, according to National Geographic Between 2,000 and 10,000 containers are lost at sea each year and that is a lot of stuff!

From National Geographic:

"... Every year, more than 10,000 containers fall overboard and spill their cargo into the ocean. Storms are often to blame.

An 8-foot by 40-foot container (2.4-meter by 12.2-meter), which can carry up to 58,000 pounds (26,000 kilograms) of cargo, might hold 10,000 shoes, 17,000 hockey gloves, or a million pieces of Lego. ..."

So, why don't we hear about this? Because they is no law that says container dumps such as the Med Taipai have to be reported hence only the customs agents know. Hence, one has to wonder if this is a possible smuggling tactic?

The inspiration for this article was originally from a tweet written by Joe Rojas-Burke.


homegrown said...

I actually did hear of smuggling tactics up pacific coastline between south + north america where boats would tie their illegal cargo to the bottom of the their boats.. kinda like drag them along.. and if/when spotted by US coast guard and/or approached, they would just release and dump their haul onto the ocean bed...

Tony Austin said...

Very clever. BoingBoing has links to narco submarines. Imagine how stressful that job would be? A home grown submarine sailing from Colombia.

memory foam mattress pads said...

We can't avoid accidents in just a mere time. All we need to do is to have tactics on how we are going to prevent such incidents. Global warming is just one of the so many calamities that we are going to prevent. It so happened that the storm stroked without their knowing and it result to this incident.

hydroG said...

"Global warming is just one of the so many calamities that we are going to prevent."


How many containers went into the see with the big tsunami's in the last couple of years alone? I have worked off shore with a few different outfits, loosing cargo... "just happens" ...the recovery cost is so severe that they will spend to no end to lobby to pay off rather than recover. We spend 10's of millions pulling up 100 containers in one area to loose billions of tons of man-made junk to the waves in another area. We cut carbon emissions, then wake-up to the eruption of a dormant volcano that triples that carbon expenditure. You cant do anything to stop the biggest polluter ...nature.
if the government really wanted to end the war on drugs they would buy all the drugs from the growers/producers directly and control access and eliminate the violence. They make more money the way it is now.
the sad truth is...
Its all about greed and power
...and 'they' are willing to destroy everything to have both.