Friday, October 11, 2013

For Safety Reasons Stuffing Freight into Shipping Containers is as Important Weighing Them

Experts Will Examine Details of Safety at Sea Revisions to Packing Code
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – In the past few weeks we have written regarding the revision to the SOLAS convention to mandate the verification of gross mass of containers prior to loading on board a ship, as was agreed in September at a meeting of the IMO Sub-committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC). The physical requirements of actually weighing every single container, at every global port of exit, a scheme strongly favoured by the unions concerned, meant that proposal was rejected in favour of the more easily achieved option of having the gross mass verified by an approved shipper.

Our previous articles dealt with the matter in some detail, and indeed for most responsible shippers the amendment means no more than maintaining the status quo, but at the same IMO meeting (DSC18), there was a little mentioned sub text concerning the actual packing of a container and it was agreed to submit the draft CTU Packing Code, whose original one hundred and eighteen action filled pages cover such minutiae as ‘don’t smoke, eat or drink during packing or unpacking’ and ‘don’t stow heavy goods on top of light goods’. To get an idea of just how detailed the original code drafted by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) was click HERE. This has now been superseded by a massive document of almost three hundred pages (HERE) which contains some graphic images of what happens when ‘boxes go bad’.

CTU’s in this respect are ‘Cargo Transport Units’ (nothing to do with Counter Terrorism then) and it is easy to mock such complex documents aimed at what is seemingly a basic, common sense link in the supply chain, documents which are bound by their nature to cover all contingencies. In actual fact, when used as a training manual as opposed to part of an enquiry into an incident, such clearly defined procedures can prove invaluable and, as pointed out by the TT Club recently, the two changes, verification of overall box weights and the application of standard packing (stuffing) procedures, provide an opportunity for an improved level of competences across the parts of the industry concerned.

The gathering of the clans at the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 93rd meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2014 are expected to approve the two plans which will first be subjected to a review in November this year when experts from the IMO, together with others from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNECE, gather to fine tune the proposals.

Whatever the outcome the responsibility will always lie with staff running throughout the supply chain ensuring that weights are accurately reported and suitable packaging implemented even before the goods come anywhere near a freight terminal or suppliers warehouse for loading to a 'CTU'. Those same standards need to be maintained in the stuffing of trailers and containers and again at dockside or aboard trucks to ensure the safety of all others until the ultimate delivery point is reached.