TT Talk - Another step towards reducing supply chain accidents

The full adoption of the

IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of practice for packing cargo transport units

(CTU Code) took a massive step forwards as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) moved to protect the lives and safety of both workers and the general public by endorsing the draft document without amendment at its session 25-17 February 2014. It is expected that the competent bodies within IMO and ILO will similarly endorse the CTU Code during the course of 2014.

The development of the CTU Code originates from the earlier Guidelines for packing cargo transport units (CTUs) published in 1997 by the same three UN agencies, and was stimulated by partial amendments to the Guidelines by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and a Global Dialogue Forum organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The accompanying research paper '

Safety in the supply chain in relation to packing of containers' 

, produced by ETS Consulting's Bill Brassington, found some disturbing gaps and inconsistencies in accident data as the collection of reliable statistics on incident numbers was difficult to obtain and collate. Here is a flavour of the various data highlighted in the report:

  • In a ten-year period from 1999 to 2009 over 300 fatalities resulted from almost 25,000 accidents with trailers.
  • In the USA alone there could be as many as 15,000 vehicle roll-overs per annum. These resulted in many driver prosecutions but little examination of the root cause of those incidents
  • The Japanese delegation also reported on high numbers of incidents on their roads with many fatalities.

Regardless of the precise figures globally, it is clear that too many accidents occur, many of which could be avoided. Investigations into causal factors for incidents are often uncertain as the resulting devastation usually hides the positioning and securing of cargo items within containers and road vehicles. However, analysis of the TT Club's claims indicates that as many as two-thirds of accidents involving the loss of or damage to containerised cargo are likely to have been caused by improper packing and securing of cargo inside the unit.

"as many as two-thirds of accidents involving the loss of or damage to containerised cargo are likely to have been caused by improper packing and securing of cargo"CTU Code development

Following more than two years of intensive efforts by an international Group of Experts (GoE), comprised of many experts from the transport and container shipping industry, the new CTU Code was finalised in November 2013. The new CTU Code is a non-mandatory, inter-modal guidance document based on best practices and internationally agreed technical provisions. It provides detailed, consistent and comprehensive information on all aspects of loading and securing of cargo in CTUs, taking account of the requirements of all sea and land transport modes.

The CTU Code is intended to assist the industry, as well as governments, in training their staff on the safe packing of cargo. If necessary, the CTU Code could also be used as a reference base for national regulations and could become a model for internationally harmonised legislation in this field, should such requirements arise.

At the final meeting of the GoE, the extremely thorough draft was examined in detail and some major editorial changes made. The final draft of the CTU Code comprises 13 chapters covering such subjects as:

Chains of responsibility and informationCTU suitability Packing cargo into CTUs Advice on the packing of dangerous goodsWhat to do on completion of packingTraining in packing of CTUs

These 13 chapters are augmented by more detailed information provided in a further ten annexes and eight 'informative material' papers. Finding consensus within the GoE was often difficult; as a result, when two conflicting proposals could not be agreed for the final draft, the text was removed, leaving it to the industry to generate its own guidance. As an example of this, the TT Club will be publishing a revision to its StopLoss guidance 'Carriage of Steel Coils', demonstrating how such cargoes can be transported safely, including the necessary size and strength of bedding material for concentrated loads in ISO containers.

The dissemination and training challenge

Given the amount of information in the new CTU Code, concern has been expressed about how it will be disseminated effectively. ETS Consulting's research paper indicated that the existing IMO/ILO/UNECE Guidelines are known by only a very few packers and used by even less. It is therefore important that innovative and diverse means of disseminating the CTU Code are developed. The CTU Code is currently available in electronic format and in English only on the UNECE website, but will soon be available also in French, German and Russian.

In an attempt to provide foundation level introduction into packing CTUs, the TT Club and Exis Technologies launched an eLearning package


in January 2014 which

  • Delivers high quality training with continuous testing of understandingMinimises training time away from normal dutiesSupports learning at students' own pace or within timeframes set by course administrators
  • This e-learning course is available via the web or as SCORM compliant content packages for national, regional or global training programs.
  • The TT Club will continue to expand its offerings on reducing the risks associated with packing CTUs, collaborating with other organisations, such as ICHCA International, in the presentation and dissemination of the CTU Code, including how to put it into practice.

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox

Risk Management Director, TT Club

Staff Author

TT Club