It is uncertain how many shipping containers fall into the ocean as they make their way across but researchers estimate it is in the thousands every year. A majority of freighters do not have the resources or even the ability to retrieve the container after they fall off. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of huge containers resting on the sea floor.

Upon discovering a shipping container in 2004, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute conducted the first ever study about the effect of these in the ocean. The container sat 4,200 below the surface and would be the focus of the study. A couple years later, research teams began making dives, collecting video footage and surveying the area around the container.

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In May of 2014, 10 years later, the findings of the study were finally published. The most shocking aspect of the project was the lack of corrosion on the shipping container. The extremely cold temperatures and deep sea level have not allowed the container to decompose, which is very unfortunate for sea life.

Researchers expected and hoped that lost shipping container’s hard surface would provide an ideal habitat for a variety of animals, much like a coral reef. This does not seem to be the case and very little wildlife was found on or even near the container. The researcher suspect that the container coating is the likely deterrent.

These shipping containers are keeping animals off and away. The study reports that an insignificantly low number of sea life were found in the 500 meters around the container. This leads them to believe that shipping containers are not providing any ecological benefit, and could become a serious problem.


If the shipping containers are a problem, then what about the stuff inside of them? Often these containers are filled with things, such as tires that can only negatively impact the ocean. With thousands of containers falling off every year, many other agencies are taking steps to help find a solution to the problem.

Governmental agencies have teamed up with shipping industry to implement a tracking system for the containers. This is a necessary first step and will definitely go a long way. Recently the U.S. Coast Guard cited Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s study in a proposal to criminally charge companies that lose shipping containers.

It is hoped over time, these lost shipping containers can eventually supply a habitat for sea life. However this is unlikely, because the contents of the containers will always be harmful. To add insult in injury, it will take over 300 years for the containers to fully degrade.

Given the similarity of shipping containers to dumpsters, Budget Dumpster takes this problem very seriously. If you would like more information about this study please visit Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Website. There is a great deal of opportunity to get involved!