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Shipping Containers: Lost But Rarely Found, Never Mind Monitored

Apr 23, 2014

With an industry as commercially strong and as geographically expansive as shipping—especially where it concerns the transport of containers by sea—operational mishaps and security breaches are quite difficult to prevent and perhaps impossible to eliminate, but some of the trade’s truths and recent developments are almost too incredible to believe.
To start, roughly 10,000 containers are lost to the ocean every year. Yup, 10,000. Top-heavy ships list in rough sea conditions, and unstable containers roll from their positions. Some vessels even split in half before sinking. Regardless of their last known location, the vast majority of containers are never found because they are not individually tracked.

Companies like Nike and Frito-Lay lose product and subsequent revenue, while insurance companies payout claims in the hundreds of millions. One container lost in 1992 spilled thousands of rubber ducks and turtles into the Pacific, and twenty-one years later, the little bathtub toys were still washing up onto beaches across the globe.

Even when containers and their contents are safely transported from port to port, they can be abandoned for a multitude of reasons like poor communication, unpaid bills, regulations and even consignee bankruptcy. More severe and disconcerting is the seizure of illegal and dangerous goods. Drugs are quite commonly found by U.S. customs officials, and smuggled animal products are still discovered by agents in ports around the world. What all these examples have in common is the problem of what to do with the actual containers once their sometimes extraordinary and cinematically famous contents have been auctioned off or, um, awoken from an evening of much-needed sleep.

Generally speaking, shipping lines assume the cost of redistributing these empty metal boxes. For example, each year Maersk spends around $1 billion on moving their 4 million unused containers back to where they are most needed, but very often ports are left holding these unwanted, cumbersome, and expensive-to-remove receptacles. However, after seeing more and more photographs like these:

shipping containers

Some folks have decided to go bold in their quest for repurposing empty and abandoned containers. The trend of designing and constructing commercial and residential properties from the shells of old, even rusty shipping boxes is a global one that has gained tremendous momentum, even in the United States.

Indeed, inquiry, ingenuity, and engineering may have once again created another consumer avenue where folks originally thought none could exist, and from those same characteristics derives an answer to the fundamental problem of container tracking and monitoring. Though such a solution won’t prevent your container from accidentally entering the ocean, it can let you and your freight forwarder know where it is, and that it’s utterly alone.

Next week we’ll take a step-by-step approach to the introduction and installation of one of these cloud-based monitoring systems. See you then.


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Written by:

Chris Monaco, Covert Content Creator

As a man of many achievements, Chris Monaco is Temperature@lert’s newest Covert Content Creator. Hailing from Beverly, MA, Chris is armed with a trifecta of degrees, from a BFA (Maine at Farmington), to an MFA (Lesley University), all the way up to his most recent achievement; the coveted MBA from Suffolk University. Outside of his academic travels, Chris has added many international stamps to his passport, including: Seoul, Korea and Prague, Czech Republic, wherein Chris taught English as a Second Language to dozens of international students. His hobbies include writing, skiing, traveling, reading, and the world of politics. His personal claims to fame include two cross-country car trips through the U.S. and a summer’s worth of courageously guiding whitewater rafting trips. Chris’ ideal temperature is 112°F, the optimal temperature for a crisp shave.

Chris Monaco Temperature@lert

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