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Research Technical Report

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M/V Med Taipei Settlement Outcome: Lost Shipping Container Research

MBNMS (December 2011)

MBNMS Technical Report, 4pp.

M/V Med Taipei Accident

During a transit from San Francisco Bay to the Port of Los Angeles on February 26, 2004, the M/V Med Taipei encountered a storm and lost 15 forty feet shipping containers in MBNMS, and another nine south of the Sanctuary. One of these containers was discovered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) on June 9, 2004 on Smooth Ridge at a depth of 1,281 meters, 17.5 nm NW of Point Pinos.

Phenomenon of Container Loss

This was not an isolated incident. Containerized maritime trade grew eight-fold from 1985 to 2007, and worldwide there are now approximately 5 to 6 million containers in transit at any given moment. An estimated 10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea every year, often due to the nexus of rough seas and inadequate or faulty securing mechanisms (e.g., Fig. 1). Many containers are not weighed prior to loading, resulting in extreme forces being placed on container stacks when bad weather strikes. Depending on the cargo, containers may float at the surface for several days or weeks prior to sinking. Unfortunately, it is not mandatory to report container losses to all relevant management agencies.

2011 Research Cruise

One of the diverse mitigation projects identified during the settlement negotiation process with the shipping companies called for monitoring of the impacts, natural habitat recovery rate, and decomposition rate/characteristics of container TGHU7712262. On March 8-10, 2011, a science team led by Andrew DeVogelaere (MBNMS) and James Barry (MBARI) conducted a research expedition aboard MBARI's R/V Western Flyer. The ROV Doc Ricketts was deployed to address the following goals:

  • Assess the container's current condition by gathering high-resolution imagery.
  • Describe sea life on the container and at different distances from it.
  • Bring public attention to this deep-sea phenomenon that has been increasing with economic globalization.


For more information, see PDF.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
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