Monday, August 5, 2013

A Legendary Offshore Danger: Floating Shipping Containers

Just how big of a threat are floating shipping containers?

Colliding with a water-logged shipping container in the middle of a gale is a sailor’s worst nightmare, but that’s exactly what happened to Capt. Andrew Segal one November evening while sailing his Pearson 530 from Newport to Bermuda.

It was around 2200. Seas were running eight to 12 feet and winds were blowing at 44 knots while Segal guided his 53-foot ketch through the storm.

“We were sailing hard to weather with a deeply reefed main and Yankee jib,” Segal recalled. “As we came back from heeling, the boat hit a container with such force it…almost threw me overboard.”

Segal was lucky. His boat struck the container with a glancing blow. Nevertheless, he most likely hit a container weighing close to 60,000 pounds, virtually the same weight as his sailboat, and only a third shorter. Though his Pearson’s fiberglass hull was damaged, it remained intact enabling Segal to sail on.

Approximately 160 million containers cross the oceans each year. More than 99 percent complete their journey without incident. But accidents do occur. Severe weather sometimes sweeps inadequately lashed containers overboard, or an overloaded box atop a stack of six containers ends up in the sea.


According to Vero Marine, a 20-foot container can float for up to 57 days while a 40-foot container will float more than three times as long. That’s plenty enough time to collide with something, especially since a fully-loaded container will generally float only 18 inches above water. Additionally, they don’t always show up on radar and can be especially hard to spot at night as Segal and other sailors have experienced.

Read More


All Is Lost - After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face. 

Release Date:  18 October 2013 (USA)


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