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Cargo groups publish quick guide to container packing – updated

[ September 17, 2020   //   ]

The Cargo Integrity Group of five international freight transport and cargo handling organisations have published a ‘Quick Guide’ to the United Nations sponsored Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (the CTU Code), together with a checklist of actions and responsibilities for those involved.

It is part of a range of activities to further the adoption and implementation of crucial safety practices by the Container Owners Association, the Global Shippers Forum, the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association, the TT Club and the World Shipping Council.

With several container fires aboard ships recently, some of them fatal, the organisations believe that adherence to the CTU Code by all parties would significantly reduce incidents.

Container stack failures, vehicle roll-overs, train derailments, internal cargo collapses and even pest contamination can also be traced to poor packing, they say.

James Hookham of the Global Shippers Forum said: “Perhaps the greatest challenge in minimising cargo-related issues is that of creating the necessary awareness throughout the huge number of businesses active in the shipment of goods by intermodal container and other types of cargo transport units.”

At an online press conference to launch the guide, TT Club’s Peregrine Storrs-Fox said that according to the insurer’s own analysis, two thirds of reported cargo incidents were caused or aggravated by poor packing and that the total cost to the transport industry was over $6 billion a year.

However, many if not incidents were preventable, added ICHCA head Richard Brough.

But the bottom line, said Storrs-Fox was that “poor packing of containers kills people…One death is one death too many.”

Storrs-Fox commented also that the recent disastrous explosion in the port of Beirut could energise the industry in following good practice, although the exact chain of events there was not yet known for sure.

The guide should be seen as a work in progress, added James Hookham, of the Global Shippers’ Forum. In time, advice on specific cargoes like Lithium batteries could be added. Richard Brough added that the group would also share a list of the top ten commodity types most considered to be at risk from substandard packing.

However, the Cargo Integrity Group was very dependent on the shipping industry and its ability to disseminate the safe package message among those ultimately responsible – container packers. James Hookham explained: “This is essentially a practical document. Today starts a process of cascading information to the rest of the industry.”

Storrs-Fox described the guide as “good, simple information and material that can be used throughout the industry”.

The Cargo Integrity Group is not a statutory body and has no powers of enforcement. Indeed, experience with the International Maritime Organisation’s Verified Gross Mass rules for container weights said that few countries had formally incorporated them into their own legislation and that the penalties for failing to abide by them in different parts of the world varied from small fines to prison sentences.