I read with interest your captain’s ‘rant’ from the last issue and completely agreed with fire being the number one concern for anyone out on the water. The comment about not worrying about UFOs (Unidentified Floating Objects) was also quite interesting, as there appears to be this myth that there are thousands of containers that lurk just below the surface, ready to invisibly attack under the cover of darkness, tearing a hole in an unsuspecting hull, which will soon sink it.
I genuinely believe you’ll have more chance seeing an Unidentified Flying Object than a floating one – of which I blame Hollywood, which now sees a rogue container as the destructive equivalent of Godzilla. Yes, a number of containers are lost overboard each year – but we’re talking on average, less than 2000. Not too bad when the shipping industry annually transports approximately 130 million containers across our oceans.
So, what are the chances of your yacht hitting one of these four tonne ship sinkers? Well, pretty unlikely, to be honest. For starters, the sea is big. Real big. It covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and has a volume of 1.335 billion cubic kilometers. The average 40 foot long container now seems rather small.
Also, they don’t sit just below the surface, ready to rip off a prop or rudder. They’re either floating, or sinking. The one’s that do hang around in the danger zone are usually reefers (refrigerated boxes) which, as you can imagine, are fully sealed and can take a long time to head down to Davy Jones’ Locker. But eventually the rubber seals will break down and seawater will make its way in.
Are lost containers a threat then? Possibly not to the superyachts travelling the world’s oceans. But, to small sailing yachts, at night, there is that minute chance of running into one. Fire is still the number one safety threat at sea, and it always will be.