The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the World Shipping Council (WSC) have published 'Safe Transport of Containers by Sea, Guidelines on Industry Best Practices’, with a view to minimising the dangers to containerships, their crews, and all personnel involved with containers throughout the transport chain.
The new Guide has been developed by an expert international industry working group in response to recent incidents involving containerships, most notably the collapse of a stack of containers on board the ‘Annabella’ and issues arising from the loss of the ‘MSC Napoli’, as identified by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch and submitted for consideration by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) last year.
ICS Marine Director, Peter Hinchliffe, explained:
“The primary responsibility for the safe transport of containers by sea rests with containership operators. But there are many other parties in the transport chain concerned with the safe movement of containers. There are those employed by shipping lines involved with the booking and assignment of cargoes, and the subsequent arrangements for stowage planning; and there are the freight forwarders, ports and terminal operators and - particularly important - the shippers, from whom the cargo originates. All of these players have important responsibilities which are addressed by these new industry Guidelines.”
Peter Hinchliffe added:
“The safety record of the containership industry is impressive and has progressively improved during the last 20 years. But when incidents still occur, the root cause normally involves a failure to comply with existing international rules, or else results from a failure to follow established procedures which this new Guide seeks to reiterate in a readily digestible form.”
Particular emphasis is given by the new ICS/WSC Guidelines to the responsibilities of those involved with the correct packing, labelling and weighing of cargoes when they are stuffed into containers, and the accurate declaration of the goods by cargo interests. The Guidelines also address the safe handling and stowage of containers when they are received by a port facility and are loaded on board a ship, the latter requiring complex planning, calculations, and the use of sophisticated computer systems. The Guidelines also cover the maintenance and inspection of the containers themselves. All of these activities have a direct bearing on the safety of ships and the reduction of the risks to the lives of ships’ crews and other personnel in the transport chain.
Lars Kjaer, Senior Vice President of the World Shipping Council, remarked:
“The new Guidelines provide a comprehensive and consolidated list of effective best practices in one place to provide a useful resource that should be of benefit to all concerned with the safe transport of containers.”
“It is particularly important for shippers to understand the extreme forces to which containerships are exposed at sea, and the extent to which risks are increased dramatically if a container is stuffed incorrectly. It is vital for shippers to adhere to weight restrictions and to ensure that cargoes cannot shift within the container. It is also important for them to provide accurate and timely documentation and to properly label dangerous cargo.
These guidelines also recognise that container weight should be verified by marine terminal operators before vessel loading. By knowing accurate container weight, vessel and cargo safety is greatly enhanced.”