Each year, more than 100 million containers are shipped across the globe on containerships that can now stretch the length of three soccer fields or more. Despite the large number of containers shipped, accidents are relatively rare, with the best estimates saying a that less than 1,500 containers are lost from ships each year on average.

disaster Maersk-Honam-Fire

But accidents do happen, and when they do they can lead to disaster. As I type this, there is a major fire on board the Maersk Honam, an ultra-large containership capable of transporting more than 15,000 twenty-foot containers.

In this post, we’re taking a look back at some of the worst container shipping disasters in modern history.

Hanjin Pennsylvania – Indian Ocean, 2002

The Hanjin Pennsylvania was less than a year out of the shipyard when an explosion occurred in a cargo hold on November 11, 2002, off Sri Lanka during a voyage from Singapore to Germany.

disaster Penn1

Four days after the initial blast, a second explosion rocked the 282-meter vessel. Its source? One or more containers filled with fireworks that were misdeclared on the ship’s manifest.

disaster HanjinPennsylvania2

Tragically, two crew members were killed in the accident. As for the ship, she stayed afloat but was eventually declared a total loss and sold for scrap. She never made it to the breakers, however, and she was rebuilt and returned to service as the Norasia Bellatrix.