TT Talk - ‘That weighs eight tonnes, it will never move!’


International research has demonstrated that there is little awareness of the international guidelines for packing cargo. The TT Club’s claims statistics demonstrate that there is poor awareness of what good practice is in relation to packing cargo. As various UN Organizations seek to tackle this, the TT Club is hosting a Round Table at the forthcoming TOC Europe Conference to broadcast the debate.

How often do those involved in packing cargo transport units (CTUs) – trucks, trailers, swap bodies and containers – struggle to get a heavy item in and then believe that it can never move? Even if it is going to move, surely that 25 mm square batten nailed to the floor will stop it? Those packers may also believe that placing it near the door will mean that they are making it easier to get it out again.

How often do packers place large diameter, and therefore heavy, steel coils on the floor of a container and know that they need to stop it rolling, so place 50 x 50 mm battens in front and behind?

How often are packages covering the majority of the floor of CTU not secured in the belief that, since there are few gaps, they will not move ‘much’?

How often does the heavy cargo item break through the side of the container, the steel coil fall off the CTU and the container opened to find that the entire cargo has been smashed? 

Unfortunately, such inadequate awareness of the dynamic forces involved occurs far too frequently, many times associated with fatal consequences.

'inadequate awareness of the dynamic forces involved occurs far too frequently, many times associated with fatal consequences'

Historic packing guidance

For many years SOLAS (International convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) and the IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code) have referenced the IMO/ILO/UN ECE ‘Guidelines for Packing Cargo Transport Units (CTUs)’ to assist those involved in packing containers and other transport units. The same publication is referenced in numerous other documents produced by trade organisations, carriers, NGOs and governmental organisations in an attempt to provide their constituents with packing advice. However, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) research entitled ‘Safety in the supply chain in relation to packing of containers’, published in 2011 found that only 15% of packers use the guidelines. The majority of respondents – let alone the global packer industry – were unaware of the CTU Packing Guidelines. Furthermore, they were often perceived as rules applying only to the shipping lines.

The ILO global dialogue forum agreed that:

  • an ILO/IMO/UN ECE code of practice on the Packing of CTUs was necessary, concluding that the existing guidelines for packing of CTUs should be updated and revised, and importantly formulated as a Code of Practice.
  • there was a need to improve the collection and publication of data on accidents arising from the improper packing of containers, including consideration of the standard classification of accidents in order to identify related road and other accidents.

Development of a Code of Practice

In October 2011, a Group of Experts nominated by the three UN bodies comprising representatives from maritime and shore based safety organisations, trade, academic and risk management organisations, governmental agencies, and individuals with packing expertise started work on revising the existing document and upgrading it to a non-mandatory Code of Practice. Their work was completed with a final draft which is to be considered at the next IMO Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargo and Containers sub-committee (DSC) in September this year.

The Code of Practice for Packing Cargo Transport Units (CTU Packing Code) is a far more comprehensive document than the original guidelines, providing all parties in the supply chain information about their responsibilities, with details of how to pack and secure packages and cargo items taking account of transport forces, load distribution and the CTU’s anchor and lashing point strengths. It also places a responsibility on the shipper to declare correctly the composition of the cargo, as well as the gross mass of the packed CTU.

In addition to packing information the CTU Packing Code also provides:

  • a comprehensive guide to CTU types;
  • advice on checking the condition of the CTU;
  • detailed information about CTU approval plates;
  • advice to those receiving CTUs
  • advice on minimising the risk of transporting alien invasive species (bugs, plants and animals);
  • techniques on safe material handling;
  • guidance on working at height;
  • guidance on the selection and use of security seals;
  • guidance on testing CTUs of hazardous gases.

Communication challenge

The ILO’s research clearly found that the current packing guidelines are not generally reaching those who are actually packing CTUs and therefore recommended that its replacement should be readily available in a format that can be used by packers across the globe. It was also agreed that the CTU Packing Code should be promoted as the source of best practices for the safety in the supply chain. The investment of drawing together substantial expertise to develop the CTU Packing Code will only be realised with effective global dissemination.

'The investment of drawing together substantial expertise to develop the CTU Packing Code will only be realised with effective global dissemination.'

The risks involved

Incidents in the supply chain relate to all types of cargo, whether packed by large or small organisations, regular, occasional or first time shippers. If you are involved in the supply chain and would like to hear further information and have your say join the debate: the TT Club is hosting a Round Table discussion at the TOC Europe conference on 25 June in Rotterdam. 

'It does not matter whether the cargo is classified as a ‘dangerous good’ or not; any cargo that is not properly packed and secured in the transport unit is a potential killer.'

It does not matter whether the cargo is classified as a ‘dangerous good’ or not; any cargo that is not properly packed and secured in the transport unit is a potential killer. Headlines such as, ‘Driver crushed in horror accident as container truck rolls over and flattens car’ need to appear far less often, and it is hoped that the CTU Packing Code will assist in that goal.

 

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