TT Talk - Cargo integrity at sea - looking at lashing and securing

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) could be rightly proud that it has navigated through to amend the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to require verification of container weight and approve the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code). These are important steps to improve the integrity of cargo movement in the maritime mode and throughout the supply chain. As larger container tonnage becomes commonplace, is it time to check lashing and securing?

The advent of ground-breaking designs for larger container ships appears to offer greater opportunity for unit cost savings. Plans are afoot for even larger ships, with Lloyd's Register and others talking of up to 22,000 TEU ships. Inevitably, ports and terminals are gearing up (where draft and turning circle allow) for this onslaught of mega container ships - and other container terminals will be exercised with the prospect of increased feedering with tonnage that may now be discarded by the emerging 'mega-hubs'.

Politicians and authorities alike have raised concerns over the last decade about loss of containers at sea. Activity has inevitably centred at the IMO, where reports have been made by various Maritime Authorities into related casualties. A key input into the debate was the presentation in 2010 of the conclusions of the MARIN (Maritime Research Institute Netherlands) 'lashing@sea' project. This was a cross-industry initiative, involving ship owners, lashing suppliers, classification societies and competent authorities, to investigate lashing loads and improve safety.

Consider the progress

Developments, such as the SOLAS verification of weight for containers (expected to become mandatory in July 2016) and the approval by the three UN sponsors of the

CTU Code

by the end of this year, will undoubtedly, if adequately and consistently implemented, bring about some improvements through the supply chain. However and ironically perhaps, to the extent that they are apparent, the benefits may accrue more to landside operations.

It is therefore instructive to turn the pages of

MARIN's report 

again, since declaration of weight was a modest part of the recommendations. ISO has been tasked by IMO to address one of the other requirements, relating to the strength of items such as corner castings and lashing equipment amid concerns that the 'racking and stacking' capability of containers could lead to undue stresses. As a result, the relevant ISO standards (ISO 3874, Series 1 Freight containers, lashing and securing, and ISO 1161, Series 1 Freight containers, Corner and intermediate fittings - Specifications) are undergoing thorough review. This is particularly pertinent as the industry moves to increase the height of container stacks on deck, supported by Classification Society rules and new calculations of what is permissible. There are, however, other issues relating to ship planning, lashing, and dynamic ship-board information are extant; this needs addressing.

Rewards and risks in automation

One of the consequences of increased ship size is a larger volume of containers turning round in the terminal. Degrees of automation are seen almost universally as the only way to improve productivity. Automation has become proven and successful for moving the boxes themselves around, but what about the lashing equipment itself? Unsurprisingly, the industry has been innovating since the inception of containers themselves, moving on from manual twistlocks (although, of course, many are still in use) to Semi-automatic (SATL) and Fully automatic (FATL) versions. The main thrust of such technology development is to help improve speed of operation and remove elements of the dangerous interaction of people, machinery and unforgiving heavy steel containers.

"The thrust of technology development is to help improve speed of operation and remove elements of the dangerous interaction of people, machinery and unforgiving heavy steel containers"

However, there is some evidence that the FATL concept is not coping with the dynamic motion and vibration that can be experienced at sea, especially in heavy weather, and it remains to be seen what the industry (including ISO and IMO) will do about this.

What does remain, however, is that whether SATLs or FATLs are handled on the quayside or the manual twistlocks on board the ship, all need attention by personnel working on deck. Further, the lashing rods cannot be handled any other way and the need to stack higher means there is pressure on increasing the size of the already very long and heavy rods - which have been instrumental in a number of serious accidents and injuries. Another option would be to raise the lashing platforms themselves, resulting in greater working height for the lashing gangs and probably access issues. Other concerns that have arisen include the hazards presented where loose lashing gear is left strewn around - a particular factor in feeder ship operations, where fast turnarounds and insufficient time in or between ports preclude crew or shore based teams clearing away.

ICHCA Container lashing seminar

Accordingly, ICHCA has arranged a major one day seminar on this whole subject that is being hosted at the world's first automated terminal, ECT Delta, in Rotterdam on 10 December 2014. This will bring together key speakers from all sides of the industry, including ship operators, terminal operators, classification societies, lashing and equipment manufacturers, lashing service providers, MARIN and other industry experts. The theme of the day addresses the key issues mentioned above and how to improve efficiency around operations on board and on the quayside, without compromising the safety of personnel involved in the operation. More information about this key seminar can be found


It is hoped that delegates will be able to reach some conclusions on how the opposing pressures can be balanced, with a view to advising IMO on the next steps that need addressing to pick up the remaining recommendations in the MARIN report and how the industry can work more effectively together.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of Richard Brough, Technical Director of ICHCA International.

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