Monday, June 21, 2021

Parlous State of Shipping Containers as Supplies of Decent Boxes Dwindles

Equipment and Packing Standards Must Not Slip Says Insurance Group
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – A perhaps somewhat forgotten downside to the current paucity of shipping containers is that, when desperate for suitable equipment, shippers and shipping lines alike might be tempted to utilise boxes which in better times might not be considered adequate for the job.

Although sturdy, as they have to be, containers can take a hell of a hammering just in daily use. Now the temptation to use sub-standard units is one of the things insurance experts at the TT Club have been warning about of late. The other major issue is the actual stuffing of cargo and the need to ensure that the highest standards are maintained when loading.

Containers have numerous touch points in any given supply chain, becoming the responsibility for shorter or longer periods with a variety of stakeholders. During these unprecedented times, TT’s continued message to all parties is one of resilience and continuity of robust practices.

The Club says this challenging period, for those reliant upon the container, provides an opportunity to reflect on the roles and responsibilities defined within the Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), as well as the necessary safety properties of a container and its suitability to carry its intended cargo. Mike Yarwood, TT’s Managing Director, Loss Prevention comments:

“The ripple effects of various national lockdowns, interruptions in trade and less predictable peaks and troughs in cargo volumes has resulted in severe imbalances of container equipment. Compounding the challenge, national stay and work at home policies have resulted in unexpected surges in consumer demand particularly for e-commerce goods, translating to beyond peak demand for empty containers in the dominant manufacturing centres of Asia. These circumstances must not be allowed to lead to the widespread use of inferior container equipment or that which does not comply with industry standards.”

The TT Club has for long promoted the use of the CTU Code but recognises its contents are lengthy and can be challenging to access. Therefore, together with colleagues in the Cargo Integrity Group (CIG), it has made available the ‘CTU Code – A Quick Guide’ which includes a user-friendly Container Packing Check List. The Container Condition section asks the following questions:

  • Is the container exterior free from soil or other visible infestation by pests?
  • Is the container exterior in good condition, and not significantly distorted, cracked or bent?
  • Does the container have a valid CSC Approval Plate?
  • Is the container interior free from signs of damage, signs of water ingress, rust, residues, stains or debris?
  • Is the container interior free from soil or other visible infestation by pests?

To conclude the Club points out that, while imbalances, delays and restricted availability will place additional stress on all those involved in the supply chain, the maintenance of rigorous standards in transport operations is vital to preserve safety and security. The ultimate question - is your container fit for purpose? - must always be answered honestly and in full.