Safety aspects of the way in which cargo is packed and transported in unit loads across the global supply chain continue to be the focus of opportunities for improvement.  During a session of the Intermodal Europe Conference in Amsterdam today, four industry organisations representing different sectors of the supply chain have been drawing attention, in particular, to the responsibilities of container owners and operators in providing equipment that is fit for purpose and  properly packed with cargo as set out in the CTU Code.

The Global Shippers Forum (GSF), ICHCA International, TT Club and the World Shipping Council (WSC) have for some months now been working together to improve safety through a focus on cargo integrity.   The specific aim has been to promote wider use of the IMO endorsed CTU Code[1] for correct packing and securing of all cargo transport units (CTUs).  Improved standards of declaration and handling of dangerous goods are also within the scope of the Code, together with steps to prevent pest contamination, and the provision of containers and other equipment that comply with international rules and standards.

The Code calls for effective interaction between the shipper, who is responsible for specifying requirements for the type of equipment suitable for the cargo intended to be carried, and the container operator in providing units that satisfy such requirements, meet applicable safety and manufacturing standards, and are clean.  Faulty and badly maintained units may have as serious ramifications as incorrect and deficient packing of cargo inside the units.

The Intermodal Conference followed a meeting of the Container Owners Association (COA – earlier in the week and Bill Brassington, representing ICHCA, drew attention to the importance of liaising with that group to ensure safe containers are provided. “While we wish to create greater awareness to the way in which cargo is correctly packed into units, we must also emphasise that those units are suitable.  Our group and the COA are working together to advise operators of their responsibilities,” he said.

“Engagement with governments and industry groups representing the diverse mix of supply chain stakeholders is one of our primary goals,” explained TT Club’s Peregrine Storrs-Fox. “Through communication and understanding of the safety issues comes a wider implementation of the CTU Code and other best practices aimed at cargo and environmental safety.  To this end we urge regulatory and advisory bodies as well as associations to unite with us in spreading the good word.”

The group has been working with the IMO for some time, contributing to aspects of the CTU Code and other regulatory recommendations, but there remains an element of concern that governments may not effectively be communicating agreed IMO requirements and advisory information within their jurisdictions.

Lars Kjaer of the WSC explained, “Although the IMO agreed to amend SOLAS[2] to require a verified gross mass of packed containers as a condition for vessel loading, government enforcement of the regulation may be uneven. We want to make sure that governments as well as industry are promoting the CTU Code and its best practices to all parties in the CTU supply chain around the globe.”

Of course, those that pack the units are primarily responsible for cargo integrity and safety.  These individuals act on behalf of the shipper or beneficial cargo owners.

Chris Welsh as Secretary General of the GSF is representative of shippers within the group of four. He spoke in Amsterdam of the complexity of interaction between stakeholders in the supply chain and how this adds further to the need to engage all in promoting safety.  He stated, “In many modern international supply chains there are multiple ‘hand-offs’ where cargo is passed variously from manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, warehouses, consolidators, forwarders and logistics operators to shipping lines.  Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of the shipper as the party causing the transport of the CTU unit to demand and control compliance with proper packing standards, and to specify the type of equipment needed for the cargo. This is a responsibility clearly set out in the CTU Code. It cannot be negated or ignored irrespective of the complexity of the logistics chain.”

The challenge taken forward by this industry group is communication to all stakeholders. Through governmental and industry events, progress is being made in increasing awareness of the CTU Code and linking with other organisations which can assist in promoting its widespread adoption in order to deliver improved safety and sustainability in the international supply chain.