TT Talk - Liner ‘Cargo Incident Notification System’ is an emerging power

TT Talk - Liner ‘Cargo Incident Notification System’ is an emerging power

The Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) was formed by leading liner shipping companies to allow seaborne carriers to share information in order to establish areas of concern and trends, and improve safety in the transport chain. An impressive first year of operation demonstrates the power of this database – and confirms worries in relation to dangerous goods.

As a response to concerns arising from the volume of incidents and problems that regularly disrupt operations and endanger lives, property or the environment, five of the top 20 liner operators created CINS in late 2010 in order to capture key data. The founding five have now been joined by a further five and, together, have been populating the database – hosted by the COA (Container Owners’ Association) – since launch in September 2011. Participants in CINS now account for 52% of container slot capacity (source Alphaliner).

CINS facilitates the capture by liner operators of structured key causal information relating to cargo and container incidents. The information capture explicitly excludes any shipper data in order to preclude any anti-trust concerns. The information gathered provides an early warning of worrying trends, whether relating to cargoes that display dangerous characteristics, but have not yet been recognised as such in the IMDG Code, or continuing or emerging unsafe practices in the unit load industry. At the heart of this initiative is a quest for quality – both in terms of pure service delivery, ensuring the cargo arrives in sound condition on time, and also improving the way in which all parties in the supply chain carry out their obligations and communicate.

The incident data captured since launch is now lending weight to – and to some extent challenging assumptions from – the anecdotal evidence from previous years. The records include the nature of the cargo concerned and its packaging, together with details of the routing, and then information on the type of incident and the root cause. The TT Club, as an advisory member of the CINS committee, recently undertook analysis of the data on behalf of CINS.

Given that the records are initiated by incidents – the presenting problem – it may be unremarkable that more than two thirds of the substances involved are dangerous goods. However, the significance of this becomes clear when looking at the type of incident that is incurred (see Chart 1), where half relate to leakage and a further fifth are mis-declared. Thankfully, only 8% of the incidents by number involve fire or explosion, but clearly the consequences then are far more serious.

Chart 1: Analysis by incident type

In line with the aspirations of CINS to pinpoint what can be done to make the supply chain safer, the analysis of root cause is particularly important (see Chart 2). The whole transport industry is currently exercised on the subject of packing cargo, and the evidence for this is prominent in these records. Half the incidents were found to result from packing issues. This is especially telling when the database reveals that more than a third of the incidents with packing issues involve corrosive cargoes, which by their nature will react with other substances. In fact, when it comes to packing issues, 80% of the records involve dangerous goods.

Chart 2: Analysis by potential cause

A further key finding – and chilling for all liner carriers – is that it was found that 21% of the cases involved mis-declaration of the cargo, mostly dangerous goods. This is probably the first time that this ‘iceberg’ risk has been quantified. As investigators continue to sift for evidence on board ‘MSC Flaminia’, the fears of the liner industry that the nature of cargo carried is largely unknown are here shown to be reasonable. It is findings like this that display the potential for the CINS Organisation to have cogent dialogue with enforcement agencies, Competent Authorities and the IMO in order to lead to and support relevant changes in legislation or other safe practice recommendations.

The TT Club congratulates the CINS Organisation on its first operational year and that the statistics are demonstrating so clearly the known problems in the industry. There is now a strong case also to seek broader industry involvement, in order to increase the awareness of areas of concern and trends in containerised shipping, and continue to improve safety in the supply chain. Liner shipping companies are urged to contact Patrick Hicks, the Secretary to the COA, for further information on how to join CINS (

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