TT Talk - Packing, weighing and securing
For the unit load industry, the IMO’s twin approval of amendments to Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) for the verification of gross mass of containers and the IMO/ILO/UNECE* Code of Practice for packing cargo transport units (CTU Code) are welcome and important; the next mountaintop is now in sight.
How will the 93rd session of the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 93) be remembered? As ever, there were a wide range of topics on the agenda, reflecting something of the diversity of issues impacting the maritime mode. But for the entire unit load supply chain the decisions have significance. Many in the industry have noted the alignment between the changes in relation to verification of gross mass of containers and the development of the CTU Code. Both these important recommendations were approved at MSC 93.
Verification of gross mass
The amendments to SOLAS concerning the mandatory verification of gross mass are accompanied by a draft MSC circular on Guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo. It is these Guidelines where the two methods for obtaining the verified gross mass are expanded for practical implementation.
• Method A requires that the whole container is weighed after the packing has been completed and the doors sealed.
• Method B permits the packer to calculate the gross mass of the container, summing the tare mass of the container with the individual package masses plus the mass of all the securing materials. Method B also requires that the calculation method is approved by a competent authority to ensure that the correct practices are adopted.
While it is agreed that an alternative solution to weighing the complete packed container is essential for those packers who do not have access to suitable technology to fulfil Method A, there was concern raised within the MSC about the reliability of packers to declare the verified gross mass using Method B accurately. It is incumbent on shippers and their packers who wish to follow the alternative method to diligently prepare diligently and submit accurate verified gross masses of containers shipped.
"It is incumbent on shippers and their packers who wish to follow the alternative method to prepare diligently and submit accurate verified gross masses of containers shipped"
While entry into force of the approved amendments to SOLAS is expected only in July 2016, all parties are encouraged to ensure that they have systems in place before that date to ensure that they are able to comply with the amendmented.
The advent of a Code
The changes may be as challenging for carriers and terminals as they will be for shippers. However, this is where the significance of the CTU Code becomes apparent: Chapter 4 covers clarifies for the first time the functional responsibilities of parties within the supply chain; here is a taste:
The packer is responsible for:
• Ensuring that the cargo is correctly distributed in the CTU and properly supported where necessary;
• Ensuring that the cargo is sufficiently secured in the CTU;
• Ensuring that the CTU is not overloaded;
• Accurately determining the gross mass of the CTU and transmitting it to the shipper.
The shipper is further required to:
• Accurately determine the gross mass of the CTU;
• Communicate the accurate description of the cargo to the carrier as early as required by the carrier;
• Communicate the verified gross mass to the carrier as early as required by the carrier
"Gross mass and load distribution contribute to accidents alongside potentially more pernicious and dangerous issues of mis-declaration"
The CTU Code recognises that accidents through the supply chain have a variety of causes, of which gross mass and load distribution contribute alongside potentially more pernicious and dangerous issues of mis-declaration. Seriously eccentrically loaded containers may result in road trailers overturning and rail wagons derailing, placing transport workers and members of the public at risk. Deliberate or uninformed mis-declaration of dangerous goods equally endangers people, property and the environment. Seeing the stride that the CTU Code represents, it is unsurprising that MSC 93, after a very short discussion, approved it, accepting the recommendation that the ‘informative texts’ provided on the UNECE website to assist the packers and others in the supply chain, but not forming part of the CTU Code, should be reviewed at the first meeting of the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC1).
Lashing moves up the agenda
Part of IMO’s impetus has been the MARIN (Maritime Research Institute Netherlands) report ‘Lashing @ Sea’, which identified a number of actions that could be pursued to reduce the number of containers lost at sea. One recommendation of the report has been fulfilled by the amendment to SOLAS and the mandatory weighing of containers before loading aboard. The CTU Code further contributes by identifying the responsibilities of the parties within the supply chain, the need to secure the cargo properly and accurate declaration of the nature and gross mass of the cargo carried.
A third subject of the MARIN report, container lashing, has been highlighted in the recent ‘Sewol’ accident, where accident investigators referred to lashing devices being loose and ineffective. While not a central part, of the report by the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board (DMAIB) on the fire aboard ‘Eugen Maersk’, alluded to issues concerning container lashings and stack weights. Given the general sense that, to quote from the UK Maritime Accident Investigation Branch report on ‘MSC Napoli’, safety margins may in many respects be ‘eroded or eliminated’, IMO may be commended not only in approving two pertinent changes but also requesting ISO to review the international standard ISO 3874, Series 1 Freight containers, lashing and securing, where work is progressing along with a thorough review of the other important standard related to container securing, ISO 1161, Series 1 Freight containers, Corner and intermediate fittings – Specifications. This work is considering the impact of heavier average and maximum gross masses of containers, higher stacks on board ships and securing of containers to all transport modes.
"ISO is considering the impact of heavier average and maximum gross masses of containers, higher stacks on board ships and securing of containers to all transport modes"
The work to develop the amendments to SOLAS and the introduction of the new CTU code has taken years of hard and dedicated work effort by a large number of interested parties. The ISO work is being undertaken by a small working group of experts and is likely to take two years to complete. The goal is well worth pursuing; safety through the supply chain may ultimately deliver greater efficiencies, without undue cost or impairment to trade.
"Safety through the supply chain may ultimately deliver greater efficiencies, without undue cost or impairment to trade"
* IMO is the International Maritime Organization, ILO is the International Labour Organization and UNECE is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
We hope that you 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.
Risk Management Director, TT Club