IMO Secretary General and European Commission officials were present at
the launch of a CTU Code Compliance Campaign in Brussels. During a
seminar, communication of best practice in packing and securing cargo
and compliance across all modes was urged.
Held in Brussels as part of European Shipping Week, the high-powered seminar on Safety in the Intermodal Supply Chain was a collaboration by the shipper's representatives Global Shippers Forum (GSF); cargo handling operators body ICHCA; freight transport insurance specialist TT Club and container carriers association World Shipping Council (WSC) and was attended by IMO and EC regulators, road and rail industry representatives as well as those from shippers, lines, port and terminals.
In introducing the discussions TT Club's Risk Management Director, Peregrine Storrs-Fox emphasised the serious consequences resulting from badly packaged, eccentrically loaded and wrongly handled material, whether of a regulated dangerous or seemingly benign nature. These accidents range from over-turned road trailers, train derailments, crane failures, ship fires to container stack collapses.
"Stringent efforts by our group and many others to address, in part, these issues resulted last year in an amendment to the maritime safety convention, SOLAS making mandatory the weighing of every packaged container. Despite there being 166 signatory nations to this convention, evidence so far is that this legal requirement has made little impact on the problem of mis-declaration of the gross mass of packed containers. Where regulation fails, industry must come together to act in the interests of safety," said Storrs-Fox.
Making a rare personal plea for attention to such a focussed issue, Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the UN's International Maritime Organization applauded the partners' initiative, "I have no hesitation in commending the use of the CTU Code," he said. "I would like to thank UNECE and ILO, as well as the four bodies organising this event for providing valuable technical and editorial input during the development of the Code. I'm also very pleased to be able to support this seminar which is aimed at raising awareness of the Code and promoting its use."
Although it was emphasised that the European Commission has no legislation covering what is predominantly an international multimodal issue, Magda Kopczyncka, Director of Waterborne Transport at DG Move took an active role in the Seminar and expressed the Commission’s support for the campaign. She noted that a lot of work remained to be done both in simplifying the existing CTU Code’s language and in communicating its sound messages to all, especially those packing the units at the cargo’s point of origin.
In addition to presentations from representatives of the four sponsoring bodies, speakers from both the rail (Community of European Railways - CER) and road (International Road Transport Union - IRU) sectors pledged support for use of the CTU Code as the carriage of multimodal units is a crucial part of their members’ operations. Dovetailing of standards and cross fertilisation of best practice would be investigated wherever possible.
During the seminar, reference was made to the relative lack of national government engagement with the IMO’s container inspection standard (as set out in MSC.1/Circ.1442). While the focus of these inspections is primarily on declared dangerous goods movements, a very limited number of government agencies provide reports on their findings. Even so, the reports are disturbing – over the last decade approaching a third of the units are reported to be poorly packed. As this analysis covers declared dangerous cargoes only, it might be assumed that a significantly greater number of poorly packed units containing other cargoes must exist, presenting daily danger around the globe.
Commenting on the need for a greater degree of industry awareness of the issues and the guidance contained in the Code, TT Club’s Storrs-Fox said, “We recently carried out an awareness survey that has produced some telling results. Of the 6,000 recipients of our emails some 25% showed enough interest to open the message, but of these less than 5% completed the questionnaire. These figures in themselves show a lack of concern regarding packing and, additionally 44% of those that did respond felt the Code was insufficient to tackle the safety issues. We clearly have much work to do.”
The consensus at the seminar clearly confirmed collaboration can strengthen a workable safety environment, with industry bodies, unions and regulators all contributing. However there is a very obvious need to communicate the existing guidance and have it used in practice. The next step must be to deliver the Code, or essential elements of it, to the workforce which carries out the function of packing cargo. The sponsors are committed to do this through whatever means are available including the use of new technologies as well as traditional communication and training networks.