Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Every Facet of the Safety of Freight Container Supply Chain Needs Constant Scrutiny

Insurance Body Boss Reiterates Shippers Individual Responsibility
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – As a global provider of liability, property and cargo insurance to the international freight and shipping industry, the TT Club has long championed a variety of measures designed to increase safety throughout the container supply chain, many of which we have featured. At last week’s TOC Container Supply Chain Conference in Rotterdam, Kevin King, the Club’s Regional Director EMEA took the opportunity to address an audience of container operators, port and freight terminal executives and logistics professionals to highlight the crucial importance of an underlying principle of best practice which would improve the industry’s safety record, and called for all parties to take responsibility for minimising the risks inherent in container freight transportation. In his speech, King said:

“As articulated in the UK MAIB’s report into the loss of *MSC Napoli, safety margins are being eroded or eliminated. In the context of international trade, all should take up their responsibilities and perhaps abide by the legal doctrine known as ‘utmost good faith’, meaning that all parties must make a full declaration of the material facts.”

King’s speech detailed the issues that impinge on container safety and that are currently being addressed in various ways by regulatory bodies and the industry as a whole. The Code of Practice for Packing Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), which was prepared by three UN bodies (ILO/IMO/UNECE) and approved by the IMO at the end of last year, provides guidelines for all aspects of loading and securing CTUs, including trailers, swap bodies and railcars as well as containers. Although the Code doesn’t have the force of law at this point, it can be brought into litigation as describing industry good practice, with King highlighting that once a unit is packed there is less scope to correct things.

Details within the SOLAS Convention (Safety of Life at Sea) concerning verification of gross mass for containers has now been adopted and will become mandatory in July 2016. This (in the TT Club’s view) relatively modest amendment in essence reiterates the shippers’ responsibility to declare gross mass accurately. King also pointed out that if the ship or terminal loads a container without having required a verified gross mass, they assume the liability in addition to the shipper.

Additionally, King spoke of the ISO standards to which container manufacturing and maintenance integrity must be adhered and further advised that there is on-going work relating to the design and operation of twistlocks, as well as other ship lashing equipment, which we have reported previously. Ending his talk at the TOC conference, King concluded:

“Bringing all issues together concerning the interactions between ship, lashing, container and cargo are vital for safety and profitability in the maritime supply chain and help enhance the understanding of the responsibilities held by all parties in that supply chain. Whatever is in the ‘box’, how it has been placed there and how it is handled on its journey is so much a matter of trust, each party must act with utmost good faith.”

* The container ship which beached off Branscombe Bay, Devon in January 2007 causing boxes to wash ashore and pollute the beaches

Photo: Scenes reminiscent of latter day West Country ‘wreckers’ as locals combed the beaches for salvage after the 2007 foundering of the MSC Napoli.