TT Talk - Value in inspections

TT Club - amongst other industry stakeholders - has long championed CTU inspections as a key weapon in the armoury to enhance safety and combat poor packing practices.

There is a truism that where a defined standard is understood, human nature is such that the tendency will be that it will generally almost be met; where it is measured or controlled, compliance improves. Take as an example road speed regulations: only the reckless will ignore such regulations totally, but compliance materially improves where there is rigorous enforcement. Extending this analogy, speed controls are in fact poor proxies for drivers acting with due care and attention to the entirety of the conditions around them; thus, a good driver will adjust speed without necessarily being required to do so.

In the unit load industry, there are certain defined standards - such as the CTU Code or the IMDG Code1 - but these may well not be understood (the latter is mandatory, while the former is not). It was most interesting that the judgment in 'MSC Flaminia' stated clearly that the obligations of the stakeholders extended to taking due attention of all circumstances, beyond simple regulatory compliance. Moreover, there is an ongoing history of less than rigorous enforcement. These matters lie at the heart of TT Club's #Fit4Freight 'cargo integrity' campaign.

"The obligations of stakeholders extend to taking due attention of all circumstances, beyond simple regulatory compliance"

One aspect of this initiative is working in collaboration with ICHCA  and certain national authorities, particularly New Zealand, to promote a sea change in the recognition of the importance and value of implementing, facilitating and reporting on inspection programmes. These should enable intervention to stop unsafe units continuing their journeys, interaction with shippers/packers to improve practices and an increased understanding internationally and nationally of what further steps may be taken to improve safety, security and environmental performance through the intermodal supply chain.

Reporting concerns
ICHCA and TT Club have regularly highlighted that most of the maritime nations in membership of IMO do not report on the results of container inspections; less than 3% of national authorities do this, which undermines a key feedback loop and diminishes the perceived need for compliance. Reports to IMO from 2018 total less than 75,000 inspections on a packed annual container throughput estimated to exceed 130 million.

"[Lack of reporting] undermines a key feedback loop and diminishes the perceived need for compliance"

During 2019, certain container shipping lines who are members of the CINS have undertaken a pilot in both US and Europe to inspect a range of containers that would not ordinarily be selected for inspection under a government programme2, in order to reveal something of the extent of dangers that might exist on every voyage. The selection criteria deliberately sought a mix of import, transit and transhipment shipments, and almost half that were not declared as carrying dangerous goods. In carrying out this initiative, the participants sought to spot trends that would increase safety awareness, and industry and regulatory compliance, particularly to reduce shipboard incidents due to non-compliance with dangerous goods regulations. The findings on this sample evidenced dramatically higher levels of deficiency than the government reports, which are biased towards exports of declared dangerous goods shipments.

Proposing change
These matters will be debated at the IMO's Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC) this month. The core proposal, sponsored by New Zealand and ICHCA, sets out amendments to the existing government guidance for container inspections with key objectives of explicitly broadening the scope to all cargo types carried in cargo transport units (CTUs) and incorporation of the CTU Code. Furthermore, the amendments seek to add checking of cleanliness.

The issue of cleanliness - or more explicitly the potential that cargoes and containers moved internationally can carry pests that could pose a serious risk to agriculture, forestry and natural resources - has been rising in recent years. The industry's response to an initiative taken by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and International Plant Protection Convention was to publish "Joint Industry Guidelines for Cleaning of Containers" in late 2016.

It is accepted that specific pest risks may warrant further action. Canada and the United States, for example, have implemented a programme in relation to the Asian Gypsy Moth, based on a risk analysis and supported by thorough information and an outreach campaign to the shipping industry concerning requirements for ships to enter Canadian and American ports. Similarly, New Zealand and Australia have taken targeted risk-based actions regarding certain pests, such as the brown marmorated stinkbug. Such specific initiatives appear to be workable and proportionate; the proposal to collect data through a re-energised CTU inspection process would also support proper risk analysis for future actions.

Intended outcome
More inspection data will inform international and national actions in relation to both safety and phytosanitary issues (and potentially customs and security authorities), but also influence behaviour amongst stakeholders, especially shippers and packers who initiate supply chain movements.

­­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

1International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code; see 'Book it right and pack it tight' for more detail

2In accordance with MSC.1/Circ.1442, as amended by MSC.1/Circ.1521

Staff Author

TT Club