TT Talk - Claims should teach us! Correct packing, stowage & securing of containerised cargo

Looking at the actual accidents that give rise to insurance claims can be very instructive. The TT Club regularly seeks to draw conclusions from experience in order to prevent losses. There has been a noticeable increase in recent claim activity relating to incorrect or inadequate stowage and securing of cargo within freight containers.

One particular incident serves to underline how important this is and indicates the possible outcomes if cargo is not properly secured at the outset. It involved a cargo of marble blocks in a standard 20ft container which unexpectedly overturned, whilst being hauled by a tugmaster and terminal chassis within the port area. The subsequent investigation noted that there was a large linear dent present along the entire length on the left side of the container at a height of approximately 1.8 metres. When the container doors were opened, it was clear that no attempt had been made during the stuffing process to secure the cargo within the container.

It was evident that the two marble blocks had been placed within the container leaving a gap of about 0.8 metre on the right hand side, and it was this unsecured and, particularly, offset stowage that had given rise to the overturn. Not only was the cargo not loaded on the centre of gravity within the container, but the total weight exceeded the maximum permissible payload of the container by 2.9 metric tonnes.

The tugmaster had capacity to carry two containers up to a maximum of 65 tonnes (although at the time it was only carrying one container), was mechanically limited to 30 kph, and the journey within the terminal had posed no hazards. It was therefore concluded that the cause of the overturn had been a shifting of the eccentrically loaded and overweight cargo.

The container was a write-off, having suffered extensive damage to the wooden floor in addition to the side wall deformation. Furthermore, although the tugmaster unit had not overturned with the container, it had suffered significant damage caused by torsion in the jaws of the fifth wheel and the kingpin of the trailer. It was estimated that between 10% and 20% of the cargo was damaged. In addition to the actual damage sustained, there remained a grave risk in such circumstances of potentially fatal bodily injury, whether in the port area or a road traffic accident.

Similar cases handled by the Club include a road accident caused by unsecured granite blocks and another involving loose loaded 25 kg bags of garlic. Too many of these cases have the added dimension of non-compliance with rules concerning the packing of freight containers. All compromise safety and endanger people and property in the supply chain.

The TT Club has previously raised awareness of the danger posed by inadequately trained loading staff within the supply chain and continues to urge adoption of best practice in this discipline. The ILO document 'Safety in the Supply Chain in relation to Packing of Containers' is the latest definitive industry text and considered a benchmark in respect of the safe loading of freight containers.

Staff Author

TT Club