Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Five Major Players Associated with Container Shipping Join Up to Offer Safe Loading Advice

Essential Guidance on the Many Pitfalls - from Fire and Weight Balance to Bugs in the Box
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Despite the thousands of incidents, sometimes with serious injuries, or even fatalities, resulting from the bad stowage of shipping containers, not to mention the hundreds of articles and advisories issued, the problem still persists.

Whilst the International Maritime Organization (IMO) takes the lead in such matters, and offers the practicalities in its IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units, the CTU Code, now five freight industry leading bodies have published a ‘Quick Guide’ to the Code, together with a Checklist of actions and responsibilities for the guidance of those undertaking the packing of cargoes specifically in freight containers.

The Container Owners Association, the Global Shippers Forum, the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA), the TT Club and the World Shipping Council are reacting to the litany of accidents by co-operating, each having a vested interest in reducing such incidents. Dedicated to improving the safety, security and environmental performance throughout the logistics supply chain, one of the aims of this collaboration is to promote awareness and wider use of the CTU Code.

Fire has been the result in many cases when containerised cargo is undoubtedly the prime cause and adherence to proper packaging and declaration procedures would significantly reduce these types of incidents, some of which have resulted in fatalities and serious injuries amongst ships’ crews and shore-side staff.

Other occurrences, such as container stack failures, vehicle roll-overs, train derailments, internal cargo collapses and incidents of invasive pest contamination, can also be traced to poor packing practices. The organisations believe that a greater awareness of the CTU Code and the packing practices and techniques it contains will help to reduce such incidents.

To do this the organisations are working together as the Cargo Integrity Group and have identified the following four areas of activity to raise the awareness and improve understanding of safe cargo packing practices:

  • Promoting awareness and adoption of the CTU Code, of which the guidance material now published is an example.
  • Seeking changes in regulatory requirements to improve their clarity, application, implementation and enforcement, including to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
  • Monitoring of CTU packing performance through support for strengthened cargo screening processes and more effective container inspection regimes.
  • Working with other industry and governmental stakeholders in promoting awareness and better understanding of safe cargo packing and handling practices.

Improving understanding of the CTU Code’s many requirements is central to the work of the group, as Capt. Richard Brough OBE of ICHCA International explains:

“A key objective of our mission is promoting awareness of the CTU Code. We have a dedicated set of outcomes designed to achieve this aim, which begins with the publication of our ‘CTU Code - a Quick Guide’. We want the Code to be as accessible to as many operatives as possible and hope this Quick Guide will encourage them to learn how the Code can be applied to their own particular needs.”

Lars Kjaer from the World Shipping Council commented on another of the Group’s objectives, as always with safety being the priority, saying:

“We believe it is important to pro-actively review and, where needed, revise existing regulatory provisions to enhance ship, crew and worker safety. For example, working closely with other partners, we have been able to ensure the launching of a considered review of the maritime Special Provisions in the IMO’s International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. Such Special Provisions may today lead to exemptions from the Code’s safety and documentary requirements with the result that the carrier may not be able to take necessary precautionary measures.”

Other significant steps have been made in recent months with initiatives to screen cargo effectively, particularly responding to the concerns over the mis-declaration of shipments. This is something which we have often heard commented on by TT Club’s Peregrine Storrs-Fox, and he observed:

“Carriers have been advancing their capability to screen cargo at the time of booking in order to combat the curses of error and fraud that cause mis-declarations and unacceptable risk for the industry. Such actions can also support and empower industry and government sponsored container inspection programmes that are fundamental to improving good practice and understanding how regulations actually operate. It is thus part of CIG’s third objective to participate in the ongoing revision of the IMO Circular regarding container inspection programmes and support related industry cargo screening initiatives.”

Uffe Ernst-Frederiksen of the Container Owners Association commented on a further key aspect of the new documents, the complete disregard of certain aspects of the rules by unscrupulous, or misguided, shippers thus:

“The CTU Code describes in chapter 4 the roles and responsibilities of parties in the container supply chain for the safe packing, handling, stowage and transport of containers and the correct reporting of their actual weights. However, often overlooked is that the CTU Code also deals with supply chain parties’ responsibilities to minimise visible pest contamination from containers and their cargoes. It is therefore appropriate that the material we are publishing today draws attention to this important issue, stressing that minimising pest contamination of containers and their cargoes is a shared responsibility.

”Our material also makes reference to guidance material recently developed and published by the IPPC’s Sea Container Task Force of which COA is a member that aims at assisting parties in the containerised supply chains in trying to ensure that containers and their cargoes remain free from visible pest contamination. One of the key objectives of the SCTF is to promote voluntary government-industry cooperation on minimising pest contamination of CTUs.

”Our five organizations fully support this objective and call on all parties in the international containerised supply chains to actively support and participate in such voluntary programs, and to play their role in meeting the objective of minimising visible pest contamination.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge in minimising cargo-related issues is that of creating the necessary awareness throughout the huge number of businesses active in the shipment of goods by intermodal container and other types of cargo transport units. Connecting with other stakeholders, and through them with the wider industry and governmental agencies, is the fourth objective of the Group. James Hookham of GSF says,

“Today is a marker on a journey to raise wider awareness of this critical issue across the globe and adoption of safe practices. Our organisations cannot do this on their own and we are reaching out to other bodies in the supply chain and in governmental agencies to join with us in promoting high standards of the packing of all cargo transport units and understanding the inter-connectedness of differing objectives”.

The Guide to the CTU Code and the safe packing of containers should be essential reading for those it concerns and it can be read in full HERE.