TT Talk - Containers: improper repairs threaten cargo security

The United Kingdom P&I Club recently issued a warning to its members about the consequences of improper repairs to door locking mechanisms.

In its bulletin 397 - 01/05 the Club's loss-prevention director says that it has recently learned of several incidents where products have mysteriously disappeared from sealed freight containers in transit. On investigation it was discovered that the door handle retainer plate and retainer itself on the containers had been repaired at one time or another, but that instead of fixing them with the correct "mushroom head" type of bolt, the repairers had used common hexagonal head bolts.

The result was that a seemingly sealed container could be opened in a matter of minutes using an ordinary spanner or pair of pliers, leaving the seal intact. After the cargo had been removed, the bolt was then replaced, with some putty used to hold the inner nut in place.

One of the TT Club's standard recommendations is that members should always inspect containers thoroughly before loading any cargo. The inspection should cover things like cargo residues from previous loads, protruding nails etc used to secure items on an earlier journey and include a check that there are no holes, not even pinholes, in the roof or walls. These pre-loading checks should also include one on the locking mechanism to ensure that the bolts holding it in place are correct and cannot be removed from the outside. If the container does not meet the requirements, it should be rejected. That may be a bit of a hassle in the short term, but when you think of the management time that can be tied up to no good purpose in dealing with a claim later on, it is undoubtedly a worth-while investment.