TT Talk - Addressing cargo packing malpractice


TT Club has been at the heart of a long-term campaign to increase awareness of good cargo packing practices, both as part of responding to incidents and through speaking at industry events. These efforts are now galvanised in the 'Cargo Integrity Group'.

TT Club analyses consistently indicate that 2/3 of incidents related to cargo damage are caused or exacerbated by poor packing practices. The problems evident from incident investigations reveal variously inappropriate load distribution, inadequate cargo securing, improper classification or description of the goods, inaccurate documentation, and ineffective data transfer between the multiple actors involved in the shipment process.

This range of issues has been identified through litigation of major incidents, but is also prevalent in lower level, attritional incidents that result in disruption in the supply chain, as well as injury and considerable cost. Whether fires aboard container ships or container stack failures, vehicle rollovers, train derailments, internal cargo collapses or incidents of invasive pest contamination, it is possible to trace poor packing practices. Extrapolating known figures, this combination of incidents is estimated to result in a total economic cost to the transport and logistics industry exceeding USD6 billion annually. The most galling aspect of this is that the vast majority is avoidable by adopting established good practice.

"The most galling aspect of this [economic cost] is that the vast majority is avoidable by adopting established good practice"

Good practice defined

But what is 'good practice'? The simple response is theCTU Code, the joint publication of theInternational Maritime Organization,International Labour Organization(ILO) and theUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe. This non-mandatory global code of practice for the handling and packing of shipping containers, and other cargo transport units, for transportation by sea and land was approved in 2014.

Inevitably, such an articulation of good practice did not appear from nowhere. In the early days of containerisation both stevedores, used to loose cargo operations, and seafarers understood the vital factors for safe and secure movement of goods. Such expertise spawned various guides amongst shipping lines, packing depots and insurers, amongst others. This was picked up by UN initiatives from the 1980s. However, a study released by the ILO in 2011 demonstrated a number of weaknesses and called for action.

From a practical perspective, the challenges facing the industry, then and now, could be summarised as:

  • the expertise available in early containerisation has increasingly become dissipated as many with hands-on experience have reached the end of their working lives, combined with the exponential increase in global trade and the ease of packing far inland;
  • while much guidance has been published, it was often in print only and not widely distributed. The advent of easily accessible internet - and now even more exciting digital options - provides the opportunity and challenge to put good practice information directly in the hands of the packer;
  • the success of CTU movement - particularly containers - has resulted in an increasing range of commodities being carried and consequent need for continuing innovation in packing processes and the construction of units.

Such conclusions led to initiation of a thorough intergovernmental and industry review that culminated in approval of the CTU Code. The guidance applies throughout the entire intermodal supply chain and supports not only to those responsible for packing and securing cargo, but also from those initiating a consignment through to those who receive and unpack the goods.
So, the CTU Code sets out the principles required for effective, safe and secure packing. However, running to 13 chapters and 10 annexes, the CTU Code's encyclopaedic approach may be seen as complex for those wishing to locate and apply what relates to a specific function. It is undeniably wordy and still cannot address all possible cargo types in a way that can readily be applied in practice.

Launch of 'route map' to CTU Code

TT Club has, therefore, along with its fellow partners in the Cargo Integrity Group, compiled a 'Quick Guide' to the CTU Code, together with a Container Packing Checklist. The Quick Guide concentrates on creating a 'route map' to aid understanding and implementation of the CTU Code, taking the user through the complex relationships typical in the freight supply chain. Using diagrams aimed to clarify the entire process and icons to emphasise key do's and don'ts, the condensed text follows the end-to-end cargo packing process, in much the same way as the Code itself, with appropriate references to the full Code.

For this work, TT has collaborated with four other international freight transport and cargo handling organisations, being the Container Owners Association, the Global Shippers Forum, the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association and the World Shipping Council. Acting as the 'Cargo Integrity Group' there are plans to co-operate on a range of activities to further the awareness, adoption and implementation of crucial safety practices throughout the global supply chain.

"the 'Cargo Integrity Group'. plans to co-operate on a range of activities to further the awareness, adoption and implementation of crucial safety practices throughout the global supply chain"

Call to action

The complexity of supply chain relationships and fragmentation across the industry globally make it no mean task to achieve material change in behaviour and practice. The Cargo Integrity Group has deliberately sought to connect with other stakeholders, industry bodies and representative organisations, and governmental agencies, in order to gain their support and assistance.
At the end of the day, most shippers comply with good practice and the majority of shipments arrive at their intended destination without incident; it is the few that cause the issues, exposing not just their own endeavours but everyone else who becomes proximate to the offending shipment. The industry call to action is to spread the word and hold each counterparty to account for carrying out their actions diligently to improve safety.

"spread the word and hold each counterparty to account"

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


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