Cargo Integrity

The unit load existed prior to containerisation, but has now become a key form of transport for goods traded nationally, regionally and internationally. Due to this exponential growth in both volumes and commodity types transported in cargo transport units (CTUs – comprising road/rail freight vehicles and freight containers), it is vitally important for all the processes involved in packing to be considered thoroughly and implemented rigorously if the cargo itself is to reach destination in a sound condition and without presenting unknown risks throughout the journey. Achieving Cargo Integrity is all about increasing awareness and improving standards.

Knowledge about what is best practice develops over time and in many places; core for the unit load industry is the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), issued in 2014. The information following seeks to provide context and draw out key learning points.

Since it insures stakeholders throughout the intermodal supply chain, TT Club has been in a unique and objective position to support the industry in identifying the complexities and ensuring that practical solutions are put in place to achieve improved safety and security.

TT Club believes there are two fundamental steps inherent in achieving compliance and assurance throughout the supply chain:

  1. Ensure that you understand what role(s) you have and related obligations, and that your own employees are competent to carry out all tasks in a way that does not compromise safety, security or the environment;
  2. Seek assurance from all your customers, contractors and suppliers that they also understand their obligations and are committed to good practice.

While there are multiple sources of relevant good information, TT Club see that the CTU Code is the single repository of holistic information, providing the framework for achieving cargo integrity. TT Club and partner organisations are committed to improving awareness of good practice in the end-to-end processes involved in the intermodal supply chain, where appropriate assisting to produce further guidance in alignment with the CTU Code.

TT Club statistics indicate that as much as 66% of incidents related to cargo damage in the intermodal supply chain can be attributed in part to poor practice in the overall packing process, including not just load distribution and cargo securing, but also the workflow from classification and documentation through to declaration and effective data transfer.

Critically, many of these attritional incidents could be avoided; these are estimated to cost MAT (marine aviation & transport) insurers in excess of USD500 million each year. Added to such attritional losses are major casualties, such as ‘MSC Flaminia’ (Jul 2012) or ‘Maersk Honam’ (Mar 2018), each of which have insured losses approaching the same level. Overall economic losses are calculated to be many times this; supply chain stakeholders are collectively bearing a significant, largely avoidable burden.

What is cargo integrity?

Cargo integrity is the adoption of best practice in all aspects of cargo care, through the intermodal supply chain.

What does it include?

  • Selection of suitable unit for intended commodity and journey;
  • Ensuring that the unit positioned for packing is sound and free from previous cargo residues;
  • Prevention of contamination by plants, plant products, insects or other animals;
  • Proper packing of cargo within a unit, including load distribution, and effective blocking, bracing and securing;
  • Correct classification, packaging, marking/placarding, documentation and declaration of packed goods, particularly those that are regulated (dangerous, waste etc.);
  • Complete and transparent transmittal of all data regarding contents (including compliant verified gross mass), enabling appropriate safe handling through the intermodal supply chain; and
  • Effective methods of stowing and securing of units for transport in land, sea or air modes.

Why is it important?

  • Protection of the condition and value of cargo;
  • Well-being of people handling the goods at warehouses and throughout the entire anticipated intermodal journey;
  • Prevention of unevenly loaded units or insecure cargo causing incidents, particularly during road or rail transport;
  • Reduction of the number of injuries caused when unpacking;
  • Prevention of undeclared or misdeclared dangerous goods causing fires, at warehouse facilities, at ports and terminals, and at sea.

Who needs to be aware of it?

There are many direct stakeholders in the intermodal supply chain, including

  • Operators of cargo transport units (CTUs);
  • Shippers, Packers, Consignors;
  • Freight forwarders and logistics operators;
  • Carriers (by road, rail, inland waterway and sea); and
  • Anyone else involved in the movement of CTUs.

There are also numerous indirect stakeholders who influence the practices adopted in intermodal transport, such as international traders, fiscal authorities, enforcement agencies, emergency responders, and insurers.

Anyone concerned about the movement of goods internationally needs to be aware of the potential safety, security and environmental impacts involved and should be interested in the overarching aims of TT Club’s Cargo Integrity campaign.

What is the CTU Code?

The 2014 Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code) applies to packing and transport operations throughout the entire surface intermodal chain. It provides guidance not only to those responsible for packing and securing cargo, but also to those who receive and unpack such units.

It was jointly developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The non-mandatory global Code of Practice also addresses issues such as training and the packing of dangerous goods. The CTU Code is intended to assist the industry, employers’ and workers’ organisations as well as Governments in ensuring the safe packing of cargo in CTU of all kinds.

Where can I find out more?

Cargo integrity documentation


Dangerous goods documentation


TT Club publications


Training resources

The role of CTUpack e-learning from Exis Technologies is to support the training of consolidators and packers, and promote good practice in compliance with the CTU Code. Beginning with a foundation course, CTUpack will develop to address special cargoes and training for all aspects of CTU packing. The course is sponsored by the TT Club.

CTUpack e-learning™ can be purchased directly from There are discounts for courses purchased in quantity.

Packing parameters

It may be thought that any fool can pack a CTU, but there are at least three elements to a successful outcome:

  • the characteristics, packaging and securing of the commodity to be transported;
  • the nature and condition of the CTU selected; and
  • the anticipated journey

These animations identify some of the issues that packers need to take into consideration in relation to the stresses to be expected under normal transport conditions.


Consequence clips

While many consignments complete their journeys successfully, experience shows that there are recurring issues that compromise the integrity of the cargo itself, or present significant risk to workers and bystanders, other cargo, ships, equipment and transport infrastructure. Too many incidents arise through poor packing practices, as depicted in these animations.

Collaborating Organisations

As a result, and in seeking to promote the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), the Container Owners Association, the Global Shippers Forum, ICHCA, TT Club and World Shipping Council are collaborating to bring awareness to issues that undermine safety in the intermodal supply chain. Working with UN agencies, governments and a spectrum of industry stakeholders, these organisations are committed to improving safety for people, assets, infrastructure and the environment, including minimizing pest contamination of CTUs.

Container Owners Association

The Container Owners Association (COA) is an international organisation representing the common interests of all owners of freight containers. Its principle aims are to develop standards with the aim of enhancing industry efficiency, to disseminate information through conferences, training and education, to promote the safe of operation of containers and to strengthen environmental awareness.

Global Shippers Forum

GSF is the world’s leading global trade association representing shippers engaged in international trade moving goods by all modes of transport. Chris Welsh MBE chaired the Expert Working Group charged with drafting IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code). More information is available at:

ICHCA International 

ICHCA is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the safety, security, sustainability, productivity and efficiency of cargo handling and goods movement by all modes and through all phases of national and international supply chains. ICHCA actively participated in the Expert Working Group and debates leading to the approval of the CTU Code. More information is available at:

World Shipping Council  

WSC represents the global liner shipping industry on regulatory, environmental, safety and security policy issues.  The WSC has observer status at the IMO and was actively involved in the development of the CTU Code. More information is available at:


The Container Packing Game

Some say that “any fool can stuff a container” but at TT Club, we understand the complexities and importance of correctly packed cargo. TT Club developed the Container Packing Game as a simplified but fun way to highlight some key packing skills. The game consists of blocks of various shapes and sizes, which need to be packed correctly into a scale model container. The blocks display their nominal mass and a number of other symbols that are commonly used in the industry to denote specific risks. By attending to the symbols etched onto the blocks, looking out for fragile or dangerous goods, it is possible to ensure that your container has optimal load distribution and is safe. In this simplified game schema, if packed correctly, your container would be likely to proceed through the supply chain without incident. While it may be entertaining to pack against a stopwatch, we’d urge you to remember that accuracy is more valuable than speed! If you’d like to try your hand at achieving packing perfection, please contact

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