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Maritime safety – two steps forward, but much still to be done, 28 November 2014

Last week saw the International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee (IMO MSC) finalise work on two measures that are significant for standards of safety in the unit load industry, be it maritime or land-based. International transport insurance provider, TT Club however, believes that while the IMO's recent actions are significant, they are but two stakes that begin to mark out the ground for what needs to done in developing safety throughout the supply chain.

The adoption by the IMO of the amendment to SOLAS (the Convention for Safety of Life at Sea) concerning verification of gross mass for containers is welcomed. Such verification will become mandatory in July 2016. The implications of this modest change are reverberating through the international transport community, emphasising as it does shippers' responsibility to declare gross mass accurately and clarifying the means by which this can be done.

Much work remains to be done by the relevant governmental authorities worldwide to deliver uniform enforcement. Yet prior to this, consistency of both ways and means of carrying out either of the two methods of weight verification outlined in the amendment must be developed throughout the supply chain and across the globe. Perhaps even more importantly, those contracting to carry or handle container cargo need urgently to identify how each will develop compliance. The IMO's move has implications for all parties involved in unit load transportation.

The second welcome 'stake' is the approval, with immediate global effect as a non-mandatory Code of Practice, of the CTU Code and its related 'Informative Material'. While only some jurisdictions may enshrine the code in national legislation, the entire freight industry must recognise that this detailed guidance for the safe packing of unit loads may now be used in litigation to demonstrate good practice. The TT Club wishes to stress forcefully that all parties need to develop ways to implement and encourage compliance with the CTU Code.*
TT Club's Risk Management Director, Peregrine Storrs-Fox has for some time been drawing the industry's attention to the consequences, including bodily injuries, of inappropriate load distribution and badly secured cargo within CTUs (Cargo Transport Units). He asserts, "Increased levels of training of those employed by shippers, consolidators, warehouses and depots to pack containers, road trailers and other transport units is now essential."

TT Club's views are supported by both the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA) and developer of e-learning training courses for the transport industry, Exis Technologies. ICHCA will be repeating its successful and informative CTU Roadshow, first held in Harwich earlier this year, in Hull in the New Year, the date of which will be confirmed shortly. Exis Technologies was commissioned by TT Club to develop the CTUpack e-learning™ course**, which was launched in January 2014. This foundation course provides lessons focusing on the issues most relevant to the packers of unit loads, including forces and stresses encountered during transport and how these impinge on the safe packing and securing cargo in a CTU.

Storrs-Fox advises, "Such training is clearly the number one loss prevention measure and, if adopted as a core feature of the operator's culture, can greatly reduce the number of incidents incurred globally each year throughout the industry."

These two elements begin to mark out new safety parameters and will undoubtedly, if adequately and consistently implemented, bring about some improvements through the supply chain. However more needs to be done particularly in the maritime mode.

TT Club is amongst those in the international shipping community who are urging attention to be focussed on the findings of the MARIN 'Lashing@Sea' investigation. While the issues highlighted in that report of cargo weight are in hand, others relating to ship planning, lashing, and dynamic ship-board information are extant. The recent initiative by ICHCA to hold a seminar on 'Container Lashing and Securing' in Rotterdam (10th December) *** is welcomed in this regard. The event will explore what the industry as a whole can do to reduce the risks and inefficiencies associated with current container lashing and securing practices.

While recognising the complexity of international supply chain logistics and infrastructure, TT Club urges the relevant entities at IMO to seize all the issues that give rise to 'unknown variables … [that] erode or eliminate the safety margins in place,' as succinctly described by the UK Maritime Accident Investigation Branch's report on 'MSC Napoli' in 2008.

*The CTU Code can be downloaded from the UNECE website at http://www.unece.org/trans/wp24/guidelinespackingctus/intro.html.

CTUpack e-learning™ can be purchased directly from www.ctupack.com. There are discounts for courses purchased in quantity. Exis Technologies also sells Hazcheck Systems for the management of dangerous goods in sea transport www.hazcheck.com and online IMDG Code training courses www.imdge-learning.com