European Shipping Week Event - Safety in the Intermodal Supply Chain

European Shipping Week Event
(Jointly organized by GSF, ICHCA International, TT Club and WSC)

Safety in the Intermodal Supply Chain
Promoting the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code)

27 February 2017, Brussels, Belgium

Speech by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful for the opportunity to be with you today. It is not often that the Secretary-General of IMO has the chance to speak at an event with such a precise focus but, in this case, the subject matter is very close to my heart. As you may know, my previous job was as President of the Busan Port Authority – so your concerns about the safety of cargo units is something I share from first-hand experience.

And, looking at the broader picture, this forum also provides a perfect opportunity to focus once again on our theme for this year’s World Maritime Day, “Connecting Ships, Ports and People”. The theme is designed to highlight the importance of the ship-port interface and, of course, promoting safe practices is one of our key objectives in this respect.

Moving goods in containers has literally transformed shipping and logistics over the past 50 years, bringing all sorts of benefits in terms of economies of scale, standardization of ships, cranes and handling equipment and boosting throughput efficiency at ports and terminals to an extent that would be otherwise unimaginable.

But containerisation has also brought challenges, not least of which is the disconnect between those that pack containers in the first place and those who subsequently handle and carry them.

As we are all aware, the vast majority of containers – literally millions of them – are transported around the world on vessels, trucks and trains in perfect safety and without any problems.

But, as a number of high-profile accidents over the years have shown, just one container that is overloaded, poorly packed, with its contents unevenly distributed or badly secured, or improperly declared, can have serious repercussions. This may include loss or damage of cargo, injury or even death to members of the public or workers in the supply chain (who have had no control in the packing process), and even damage and loss of ships at sea or in port.

Although such incidents are, thankfully, not common, the fact that they can lead to such disastrous consequences means they are a serious cause for concern to all supply-chain stakeholders – shippers, transportation providers and intermediaries, cargo handlers and insurers alike.

The Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units, or CTU Code, is designed to address these areas of concern, and I’m very pleased to be able to support this seminar which is aimed at raising awareness of the Code and promoting its use.

The CTU Code is a perfect example of how different entities within the United Nations system can work collaboratively and collectively together, to achieve joint objectives. In this case IMO, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe all approved the Code in 2014, following the extensive revision of the guidelines that the three organizations published in 1997.

The CTU Code contains comprehensive information and references on all aspects of loading and securing of cargo in CTUs, not just freight containers. It applies to transport operations throughout the entire intermodal transport chain and takes account of the requirements of all sea and land transport modes. It provides guidance not only to those responsible for packing and securing cargo, but also to those who receive and unpack CTUs. It also addresses issues such as training and packing dangerous goods.

The CTU Code is intended to assist industry, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as governments in training their staff in the safe stowage of cargo in containers. But that’s not all: the CTU Code could also be used as a reference for the development of national regulations and could become a model for internationally harmonized legislation in this field, should such requirements arise.

I have no hesitation in commending its use, and would like to thank UNECE and ILO, as well as the organizers of this event – ICHCA, the Global Shippers Forum, the TT Club and the World Shipping Council – and many of my fellow presenters and participants for providing valuable technical and editorial input during the development of the Code.

Of course, the CTU Code is just one example of IMO’s active engagement with issues relating to cargo and container safety. The Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers and of course the Maritime Safety Committee regularly have work items on this subject. And, in a broader sense, you cannot treat cargo and container safety matters in isolation from topics like ship design and construction, firefighting, navigation and even lifesaving and rescue – which means that many, indeed most – of the other sub-committees and committees also look at cargo-related matters whenever it’s appropriate for them to do so.

Indeed, IMO has a long history in dealing with container safety, going right back to the original emergence in the 1960s of freight containers as a means to transport goods by sea, and the development of specialized container ships to carry them.

In 1967, IMO undertook to study the safety of containerization in marine transport. During the course of that study, the container itself emerged as the most important element to be considered, from the safety perspective.
In cooperation with UNECE, IMO developed a draft convention on container safety and, in 1972, the finalized Convention for Safe Containers, or CSC, was adopted at a conference jointly convened by the United Nations and IMO.

The 1972 Convention for Safe Containers has two goals: first, to maintain a high level of safety of human life in the transport and handling of containers by providing generally acceptable test procedures and related strength requirements; and, second, to facilitate the international transport of containers by providing uniform international safety regulations, equally applicable to all modes of surface transport.

Its requirements apply to the great majority of freight containers used internationally, except those designed especially to be carried by air, and it concentrates on containers of a prescribed minimum size that have corner fittings – devices which permit handling, securing or stacking.

Having global standards has helped prevent divergent national safety regulations from springing up – and, of course, helped to avoid the many practical, legal and logistical problems that would go with them.
Like any good measure of this kind, the CSC is continually being revised and updated to keep pace with changing times and changing technology. For example, a series of amendments affecting technical and operational procedures entered into force in 2012.

More recently, in a move separate from amendments to the CSC, IMO began work on further measures to prevent the loss of containers, in response to concerns expressed by Member States and the shipping industry following a number of incidents.

The aim was to complement existing provisions for the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers. A key element of this work was the verification of the mass of a packed container. This would complement the existing requirement to declare the gross mass of cargo and containers.

As a result, a new regulation requiring the gross mass of a container to be verified before it is loaded onto a ship entered into force last year. The shipper must ensure that the verified gross mass of each packed container is stated in the shipping document. This document, signed by the shipper or his representative, must be submitted to the master or his representative, and to the terminal representative, in good time for the ship stowage plan to be drawn up. If not, the container shall not be loaded onto the ship.

Once again, this was a good example of what can be achieved when people work collaboratively, and once again I would like to thank the government and industry consortium that carried out the     Lashing@Sea project, the International Chamber of Shipping, the World Shipping Council and ICHCA in particular for their valuable input to this work.

I want to conclude these short remarks by stressing once again how important it is that, when it comes to international safety regulations, all stakeholders firmly commit to engage and cooperate with each other. It begins at the development stage. There is no point developing regulations that cannot be implemented and here the input of the industry is vital.

And it continues through implementation – here again, proper engagement can ensure that the good intentions which underlie the regulations are understood and applied, and that we move beyond a culture of mere compliance.

And finally, to enforcement.

National governments must develop the skills and expertise they need to enforce international measures effectively. Granted, ensuring compliance may be particularly challenging for some cargo-related requirements where the responsible parties are diverse and may fall outside the usual scope of maritime authorities. However, I am certain that continued vigilance in ensuring compliance with the requirement for the gross mass of packed containers to be verified and adherence to the provisions of CTU Code will result in fewer container-related incidents and fewer disruptions in the supply chain.

This, I think, is an excellent example of the spirit and intention behind our theme for this year. “Connecting ships, ports and people” is an aspirational statement; but it has the potential for real, tangible benefits that will be felt far beyond the supply chain.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you.