How engineered cargo protection can dramatically improve your sustainability and ESG performance

Cordstrap (2)

The maritime industry has attracted a lot of attention as a major source of carbon emissions. The UN estimates that it is responsible for 2.8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions but this focuses largely on the emissions coming from ship funnels. However, there are other impacts resulting from the global supply chain that go far deeper than the ships responsible for transporting 80% of the world’s trade. And they are impacts that your business can affect directly by improving operations throughout your supply chain.

The National Cargo Security Council (NCSC) estimates cargo damage and loss costs the global economy well over $50 billion every year. However, the environmental cost of these losses is even greater when you factor in the resources and energy required to remanufacture lost items the cost of handling the resulting waste and the impact of having to reship the replacement product. In their latest report, the most common causes for these losses are poor cargo protection and moisture both of which can be addressed by taking a more stringent approach to cargo protection.

A world on fire

It is estimated that a major containership fire incident at sea occurs on average every 60 days somewhere in the world (World Maritime News, 2019). And you only need to see the images of a burning ship to appreciate the impact that it will have on fragile, local ecosystems and the global environment. Research reveals that mis-declared and incorrectly packed cargo is frequently found to be the root cause of ship fires (Allianz, 2019). Once again these can be readily avoided by the application of carefully engineered cargo protection and logistics procedures that comply with or exceed regulatory requirements to guarantee the safety of cargo, especially hazardous materials such as chemicals.

Yet, there seems to be little research providing a comprehensive approach that links cargo securing with ESG. The focus is on contaminants belched out by vessels into the air when burning fuel oil. Limited resources address the fact that improper cargo securing can cause major disruptions.

There seems to be little research providing a comprehensive approach that links cargo securing with ESG

Three of the main concerns identified by the European Maritime Safety Agency in their latest report are cargo fires, loss of containers and cargo handling (EMSA 2022). A shocking statistic is about the number of container ship fires occurring every year.

It is estimated that globally a major containership fire incident at sea occurs on average every 60 days (World Maritime News, 2019). Many of the materials transported by container ships are flammable and explosive and may cause serious burn injuries, counting 6mn estimated number of containers with dangerous goods (Allianz, 2019). Mis-declared cargo and incorrect packaging of cargo are found to be the root cause of ships fire (Allianz, 2019).

Another important impact of the shipping industry on the environment is due to the loss of containers at sea. Although this is often acknowledged as a safety issue, the consequences on sea life are serious. In 2019 the Dutch authorities were struggling to respond to an environmental crisis after a cargo ship sailing the North Sea during a storm lost 277 giant shipping containers, including at least one carrying a toxic substance (Schreuer, 2019). One of the identified root causes appears to be the misdeclaration of the weights of containers (Allianz, 2019). Studies focus on the weight of containers as a single piece and do not take in full account the forces acting from inside the containers. Much of the literature considers only on-deck stowage; lashing of containers and containers are commonly seen as a single piece and not as boxes containing multiple pieces. (Germanischer Lloyd, 2013). A good weight distribution on the container’s floor is paramount for safety and the relevance of proper cargo securing in the preparation of loading plans (CMA CGM, 2011).

The container revolution of the 1960s was deemed to be the solution to limiting cargo damage but we seem to have substituted problems in one large container (the ship) to problems in a lot of smaller containers (the container) (UK P&I CLUB, 2000). The great problem is that, unlike break-bulk cargo, the ship’s master and his officers do not have sight of, nor do they have any control over, the contents of containers or the methods by which the contents have been packed and secured (UK P&I CLUB, 2006). Container side and end walls are not strong enough to prevent cargo shifting and the packing of such goods into closed containers do not exempt shippers from securing them in such a way they can withstand transportation stresses (Rolling, Pitching, handling, Lifting, road braking…) without moving (CMA CGM, 2011). Uffe Ernst-Frederiksen, head of cargo management, Maersk Line, meaningfully declared that if the CTU code would become mandatory for all types of cargo we would have a better opportunity to follow up after incidents and in the long term educate to prevent future events’ (TT Club, 2019).

Cargo securing is not only relevant to ESG because the international maritime industry incurs losses of about $6 billion each year because of incorrectly packed or documented cargo (TT Club 2021), but also because of the consequences of additional CO2 emissions generated for the reworks of damage products and subsequent additional shipments. If we were able to quantity $6 billion each year plus the cost of the consequential environmental externalities, cargo securing would probably be placed at the top of the ESG agenda of all responsible companies committed to sustainable development.

If we would be able to quantity $6 billion each year plus the cost of the consequential environmental externalities, cargo securing would be probably placed at the top of the ESG agenda

Until then Cordstrap continues its mission to engineer out risk associated with the movements of goods all around the globe and to support businesses with achieving their ESG goals. We have always believed there is a better way – find out why, at Cordstrap.

Carlo Corti
Commercial Manager UK & Benelux

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