An interesting project is udnerway now by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. They’re studying the effects on benthic habitats of shipping containers lost at sea:
Each year, an estimated 10,000 shipping containers fall off container ships at sea. Although many of these containers float at the surface for months, most eventually sink to the seafloor. No one knows what happens to these containers once they reach the deep seafloor.From March 8 to March 10, 2011, a team of researchers from MBARI and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) will use a robotic submarine to study the biological impacts of a shipping container resting on the seafloor about 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside of Monterey Bay (but still within the boundaries of the sanctuary).
MBARI researchers first discovered this lost container at a depth of about 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) during a marine biology dive in June 2004. Video from MBARI’s submersible clearly showed serial numbers on the side of this container. Sanctuary staff sent these numbers to the U.S. customs agency, which was able to identify the ship that had originally carried the container.
The research is being funded by a settlement paid to NOAA by the owners of the vessel which lost the container (and 14 others).