Lost at Sea: How Shipping Containers’ Pollution affects Marine Life

How Shipping Containers pollution affects Marine life?

With hundreds of millions of shipping vessels crossing the sea each year, not all of them reach their destination. Hundreds, or thousands, of shipping containers are lost at sea during the process, and some of them spill over into the sea and affect marine life, This is due to maritime accidents, and poor maintenance.

In the year 2021, about 1,000 containers crashed into the ocean, the largest increase the industry has seen in the last seven years. Some containers are sinking, and others are being washed ashore in remote areas.

Since these hazards are undetectable, they are left unreported and damage marine life. Although to reduce container losses, several initiatives are underway.

Oil spills

Oil spills refer to oil spills in the water, which may occur during the oil filling of a container or a sinking vessel in the sea.



The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Department has listed the threats to oceans caused by oil spills –

  • The ability to protect marine animals such as otters is declining and the ability to repel water from birds is also greatly affected because birds and mammals can get potential fatal hypothermia.
  • Sea turtles can get stuck in oil and intake oil as food.
  • Dolphins and whales alike can breathe oil, which will alter the respiratory system and reproduction system.
  • Adult fish, due to oil, can have slow growth, scattering of fins, and reproductive disabilities.
  • Lack of clear water can make it difficult for marine animals to function properly.

Plastic waste

According to researchers and studies led by them, they have provided data on how quickly plastic breaks down in the water.

  • Cartridges are likely to emit microplastic pollutants containing iron, copper, and titanium. Printer cartridges are not just plastic trash, but also electronic trash, as they contain chips. Its impact, on marine life, is unknown at this time. An estimated 10,000 metric tons of plastic could enter the sea this way.
  • Solid objects floating on water block sunlight, affecting photosynthesis and coral growth.
  • The suspended particles absorbed by the shellfish, abrupt their filters.

Waste metal and chemicals

  • Container, when submerged in the sea, can cause accidental fish death and destruction of coral reefs.
  • Chemical leaks can prove toxic and contaminate water, causing many creatures to die.
  • Harmful chemicals may lead to disruption of the marine life cycle in an uncontrolled environment.



The introduction of foreign liquids or solids in the oceans can largely impact the marine life and environment to unknown extents, so proper regulation of containers carried by ships should be processed to minimize the sea accidents of containers being lost and proper methods should be followed for damage control.

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