TT Talk - ICHCA Conference notes

The ICHCA International Conference 2016 took place in Barcelona, Spain, using the theme ‘Bigger Ships, Greater Challenges”. The conference attracted over 200 delegates and a number of prominent speakers, including a keynote address from Mr Kitack Lim, the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Later this month the 60th anniversary of the inauguration of Malcom P Maclean’s shipping container will take place. It was 26 April 1956 that the first recognised container shipment set sail from Newark, New Jersey destined for Houston, Texas. The ship, ‘Ideal X’ set sail that day with a total of 58 units on board. This new shipping methodology introduced innumerable operational and infrastructure challenges throughout the supply chain which through evolution continue to this day.

Notwithstanding these new and apparently insurmountable challenges – remember there was initially very little, if any, appropriate port or landside infrastructure – it quickly became evident that the efficiencies that containerisation offered far outweighed any negative impacts perceived through the entire supply chain. As a result, containerisation grew exponentially in the years that followed, largely due to the global acceptance and standardisation of the new technologies.

The growth of containerisation facilitated or was fed by increasing globalisation and trade facilitation efforts, leading to the need for larger ships. The growth in size of the container ship has not been incremental over the last half century; large advances have been witnessed at certain points, with the leader’s accolade tumbling regularly in the last decade. Some key milestones are: 

19804,100Neptune Garnet

Regina Maersk

19978,160Susan Maersk
20059.047Gjertrud Maersk
200614,770Emma Maersk
201216,022CMA-CGM Marco Polo
201318,280Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller
201519,224MSC Oscar


“60% of all global cargo movements are shipped in containers”

Today it is estimated that 60% of all global cargo movements are shipped in maritime freight containers. Given the global economic situation, there are currently few examples where the largest container ships arrive at a container terminal facility at full capacity. Notwithstanding this, a single ship berthing may well require 10,000 box moves, which clearly presents peaks of operational demands, both in relation to the physical transaction of discharging and loading the containers, but then also on safety, security and the efficient throughput at the terminal. 

The pressures placed on the modern day container terminal may be considered unprecedented. Primarily, and quite correctly, safety is the priority of every operation. This, however, is in tension with the commercial demands to provide increasingly efficient services within pressurised time scales at competitive rates, often in a finite physical space. Capacity challenges, combined with uneven demand profiles, often lead to deploying a higher density of operating handling equipment and having to reassess stacking profiles. This necessitates capital investment in terminal optimisation and yard handling equipment, as well as quay crane capabilities. 

The more prominent peaks in volume are also felt beyond the terminal facility boundary; the hinterland and the infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of the port are also heavily impacted. Thousands of containers being exchanged for each ship call results in land transport requirements to and from the port. While there will be some spread of timing, there is high likelihood of congestion, particularly impacting road traffic around the port area.

Apart from the obvious infrastructure planning and investment challenges (including predicting business types and volumes accurately over a medium time-horizon), ports and terminals need to take account of the impact of increased throughput on current or planned equipment, expected lifecycle management and effective preventative maintenance strategy  in order to ensure sustainable service delivery and stakeholder satisfaction.

“ensure adequate trained and competent personnel”

A further substantial risk consideration is the need to ensure adequate trained and competent personnel to operate, maintain and test equipment, which itself may now be required to operate 24 hours a day over various shift patterns. Training and competence may be requiring greater attention in a world where pre-container cargo handlers are becoming rare, and mechanisation and automation can lead to complacency, while manual processes (such as twistlock and lashing bar handling) remain hazardous, particularly with deck stows up to 10 high.

No port or terminal is immune from the upsizing trend, since ships only recently considered the largest are deployed on other trades. This cascade effect means that most, if not all, face similar risk considerations. As such, the encouragement of the IMO Secretary General for ships and ports to work more collaboratively rings very true. And ICHCA is taking up this challenge by arranging a seminar on the ship/port interface in September 2016; look out for further details.

We hope that you will have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested...

We look forward to hearing from you.

Michael Yarwood
Claims Executive and Risk Manager, TT Club

24 Hour Claims Hotline
+44 7000 882582

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