Lost at sea Ecological assessment around a sunken shipping container
The vast majority of the deep seafloor is unseen, and completely remote from human experience. But it is not immune to the impacts of human activities. Around the world, coastal and international cargo ships make hundreds of thousands of trips annually. Each ship may transport thousands of standard shipping containers, resulting in hundreds of millions of container trips per year. These numbers are only growing with increased global population. Most of this cargo arrives at its destination safely as scheduled. However, the routes traveled by cargo ships can be treacherous, and container loss is difficult to prevent.
ItÃ•s estimated that thousands of containers are lost each year as they are transported along international shipping routes. While this is a small percentage of the containers being transported, the impact on the health of our ocean is uncertain. During a remotely operated vehicle dive in June 2004, MBARI scientists came upon one of these lost containers. The tracking information printed on the container was used to determine that it was lost just four months prior, from the cargo vessel Med Taipei. Because the container was found within the boundaries of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, there was particular interest in.
Determining the circumstances of its loss. The Med Taipei, sailing from the Port of Oakland, reported that fifteen containers were lost within the sanctuary boundaries during a strong winter storm, and another nine were lost before reaching port in Long Beach. Coming across a shipping container in the deep sea is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. A partnership between MBARI and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has taken advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about the presumed effects of a single container on deepsea ecosystems. Scientists returned to the site seven years later to investigate the communities of animals on and around the container.
The seafloor near the found shipping container is dominated by relatively longlived soft coralsÃ‘sea pens, sea whips, and anemonesÃ‘and a sea cucumber, called the sea pig. However, the container was found to be well colonized by animals typically found on rock outcrops in the region, as if it were an island of hard substrate in a sea of soft sediment. The most abundant animals on the container were tubebuilding worms. Numerous young scallops were also present. The container seemed to provide a useful hard surface for a marine snail to lay its egg cases on. While all of these animals are found on hard surfaces in nearby areas, the abundance and.
Diversity of animal species on the containerÃ‘and the seafloor up to 10 meters awayÃ‘was lower than that typically encountered in the area. This reduced biodiversity may be due in part to the absence of some animals found in rocky habitats in the region including longlived sponges, corals, and feather stars none of which were observed during our survey of the container. The absence of sponges and corals suggests that either, seven years is a relatively short timeframe for colonization by some deepsea animals, or, the potential toxicity of the containerÃ•s zincbased paint could deter more sensitive animals from settling on its.
Surface. We are just beginning to look into the potential toxicity associated with this container. The lower number of animals close to the container may be related to several processes, including changes in nearbottom currents around the container, its role as a refuge for some species, and changes in the influence of predators and scavengers near the container. The presence of lost shipping containers on deep seafloor ecosystems is a consequence of human activities that is rarely seen or even considered. This study sheds light on the importance of basic research to understand the structure and function of deepsea habitats.
Longterm views of natural deepsea ecosystems can help us better understand the impacts of human influence on the deep seafloor.
Meet the enormous boats that carry your stuff
This is the Empire State Building. With 102 floors, it’s one of the tallest buildings in the US. But it’s 4 floors shorter than the MSC Oscar. Which isn’t a building, but a boat: The largest container ship in the world. Launched in January 2015, the MSC Oscar is nearly the size of four football fields laid endtoend. It has a draft of 16 meters, which means that if you were to stand at the bottom of the ship, you’d be 5 stories underwater. It’s one of 5000 container ships crossing the world’s oceans, carrying the vast majority of products you buy and the parts those products were made from. These ships are the engine.
Of the global economy, but 60 years ago, they didn’t even exist. How did all this happen? For hundreds of years, shipping was a bit of a nightmare. Goods had to be unloaded into storage at ports, then individually packed onto ships and unpacked afterwards. This process was painfully slow and expensive, and it left items vulnerable to damage and theft. In 1956, Malcom McLean, an American trucking executive, proved that you could save time and money by loading truck containers directly onto ships. On the other side they’d be put back onto trucks or trains, and reach their destination without ever being opened. McLean later got the government on board by using containerized service to help the military.
Provide supplies for the Vietnam War. quot;Some of the more notable innovations in solving the logistical problems in Vietnam have been in the field of containerizationquot; After the industry recognized how efficient container shipping was, the use of container ships exploded. International standardization was the key. The unit of measurement is TEU, or twentyfoot equivalent. Most containers used today are twice as long. Shippers quickly realized that the larger the boat, the cheaper the shipping price per container. So the size of the largest ships has grown exponentially. In 1999, a shipping executive predicted an eventual ceiling of 12,000 TEU.
But the MSC Oscar has a capacity of over 19,000. To accommodate these huge ships, ports have been rebuilt, with vast yards to store the containers and huge cranes to load and unload them simultaneously, in a specific order. Today’s biggest ships are so huge that they can’t actually fit through the Panama canal or dock at any American port. They’re used mostly for shipping between Europe and Asia. It’s hard to overstate how much all this has transformed the world economy. After containerization, global trade in merchandise soared while insurance costs and inventories decreased. Jobs at ports and in factories in the U.S. dropped while consumers gained access to a.
Greater variety of products at a lower price. As a result, products we buy can be made with parts from several different countries, by people on the other side of the world. And it’s hard to imagine any of this happening without someone first deciding to put the stuff in a box and put the box on a boat.