TT Talk - When is regulation the best way forward?

Following the UK MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Branch) reports into the collapse of a container stack on ‘Annabella’ and the loss of ‘MSC Napoli’, both occurring in early 2007, the IMO asked the industry to address concerns about the extent of potential overloading of containerships due to incorrect declaration of cargo weights. The response was the joint publication by the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) of ‘Safe Transport of Containers by Sea – Guidelines on Best Practice’. This set out in detail the reasonable expectations throughout the supply chain relating to the way in which goods should be presented and handled by all parties in containerised shipping. It was a thorough review of sound practice and was followed up by a more targeted document entitled ‘Industry Guidance for Shippers and Container Stuffers’. These publications are available from Marisec (

The issues that this attempt at self-regulation sought to address were reiterated in the MARIN (Maritime Research Institute Netherlands) research project ‘Lashing@Sea’ report, presented to the IMO in 2010. The international response to this report, which highlighted a number of measures that should be taken to help prevent loss of containers, was to request specific proposals. The WSC submission to IMO’s Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers Sub Committee (‘DSC’) for its meeting in September 2012 addresses just one of the MARIN issues. It is hoped that proposals relating to the other research findings will be forthcoming.

The accident investigations and detailed research have demonstrated that the existing regulations relating to the accurate declaration of the gross mass of cargo carried in containers are ineffective. The effort to achieve reasonable self-regulation would appear to have fallen on stony ground. Whatever the reasons for this situation – and there are bound to be numerous, as seen in many root cause analyses – the extending list of incidents on land and at sea relating to this issue needs to be curtailed.

In supporting this particular legislative change, the TT Club recognises that this is but one safety issue, not just in relation to the MARIN findings but in many operations through the supply chain. What the proposal should achieve is a level playing field globally at the pivotal nodal port/ship interface for export cargo. Many other initiatives – such as the ILO work to update the ‘IMO/ILO/UN ECE Guidelines for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTUs)’ or the regular updates to the IMDG Code – are also part of the matrix that is required to increase the certainty that cargo can be moved around the globe, such that it reaches the destination in the same condition in which it was sent and does not endanger life or property in the process. ‘MSC Flaminia’ may be a stark reminder that loss prevention work is never done and the consequences of an unsafe situation can be extensive; our thoughts are with those most directly affected by this latest casualty.

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