Ports should care about CTU Code

Poor container packing can lead to handling problems Poor container packing can lead to handling problems
Industry Database

COMMENT: Take a straw poll in any grouping of 100 container supply chain professionals with the question “who is aware of the CTU Code?” and the response is invariably disappointing, writes Richard Brough.

Many have not heard of it or its relevance to the industry and far fewer have awareness of its actual contents.

The CTU Code (IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Safe Packing of CTUs (Cargo Transport Units)) was published by the three UN sponsoring organisations back in 2014 after a Group of Experts concluded several years work in its development.

So, what is the issue? Well part of the problem is that the documents comprising the Code are non-mandatory. Still higher in status than the previous 1997 “Guidelines” but insufficient for many administrations to bring it into law and certainly insufficient for many of those with supply chain responsibility to check its contents and how it might apply to them.

What, then, is the scale of the problem? Statistics are hard to come by, but we must all be aware of vehicle roll-overs, damaged containers and other cargo units and damaged cargo. In some cases, serious casualties, including fatalities, have occurred.

At the International Maritime Organisation, member states report on inspections of CTUs (mainly freight containers though) that have been found to be in non-compliance with the requirements of the IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code). However out of 172 such nations, only six reported last year.

Of those that did, it revealed that a high percentage (24%) of such shipments have deficiencies in the packing of the cargo in the unit. By some estimates, dangerous goods account for about 10% of all loaded freight container shipments.That could equate to 5.4m per annum , so given the IMO deficiency averages we could be looking at potentially 1.3m shipments per annum in non-compliance.

Extrapolating that figure to all shipments takes that figure to 25m shipments. But remember that this is just for freight containers; there are many more types of CTU in the logistics supply chain.

An awareness campaign about the Code and its contents has been mounted by four industry associations: ICHCA International, a cargo handling non-governmental organisation whose past deputy chairman of the technical panel authored the Code; World Shipping Council, which represents the global liner shipping industry; TT Club, which insures more than 80% of the world’s containers and is the leading provider of insurance and related risk management services; and the Global Shippers' Forum (GSF), which represents shippers in all modes of transport. All four organisations were involved in the development of the Code and GSF’s secretary general, Chris Welsh MBE chaired the Group of Experts.

These organisations will continue their campaign as an awareness of the Code and proper application of its contents is essential if we are to achieve a step-change in cargo transport globally and improve cargo integrity.

Captain Richard W A Brough OBE is technical adviser to ICHCA International.

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