Container shipping without a way to make sure all countries are following proper shipping regulations is dangerous. Without scanning the containers before they leave port, there is no way to know what rests inside. Therefore, criminals can get away with all types of illegal, and even dangerous, shipping activity. However, that is not the only threat of cargo shipping containers. Another large issue with this method of moving items is the consequences to the environment.
For years, there has been a concern that moving large containers from one country to another via ship creates too much pollution. In fact, in the year 2009, a study was published that reported one cargo shipping container vessel emitted the pollution of 50 million cars. This is in part due to the fact that the fuel used by these ships is rich in sulfur, and in part due to the fact that the size of the ships makes them use vast amounts of fuel. For years, the emissions by cargo shipping container ships remained unregulated, and the shipping industry was the source of the largest transport pollution worldwide. Regulations have since been put into place to curb harmful emissions, but this does not mean that the environmental threat has vanished altogether.
Cargo shipping containers, as was stated above, can be carrying anything. Even outside of illegal materials, it is likely at least some of the millions of them that are shipped per year are holding toxic chemicals. This would be okay if all shipping containers made it safely to their destinations. However, the water is not a predictable platform on which to travel. Between harsh winds and dangerous waves, it has been estimated that thousands of shipping containers fall off of shipping vessels every year.
This means that thousands of containers end up at the bottom of the ocean, eroding and letting whatever material they hold out into the environment. Some containers that carry harmless materials can become something of a reef for sea creatures, but it is the containers holding harmful chemicals that we should be worried about. Any kind of product could leak and disrupt the ecosystem underneath the oceans.
The environmental impact of cargo shipping, as well as the imminent dangers of shipping unchecked material, need to be taken into consideration as we continue to grow the shipping industry. More regulations must be put into place to protect ports and the environment and, at a certain point, it must be called into question if cargo shipping across waters is the best way to move material.