Great care should be taken when containers are loaded on vessels

container losses are the focus of a recent communiqué from the American Club
Container losses are the focus of a recent communiqué from the American Club

In a recent communiqué from the American Club, it focuses on container losses in general. This is a phenomenon that is much too common the Club says and needs addressing.

Containers are routinely being lost at sea from container ships, from barges, and from non-cellular vessels carrying containers. There are several causes including incorrect container weight declarations by shippers, improper weight distributions in the stow, cargo misdeclarations, inadequate packing of cargo inside the containers, inadequate stowage plans, and inadequate cargo securing.

Great care should be taken whenever containers are loaded and secured on vessels not designed to carry containers. Particular attention should be paid to the condition of deck fittings and whether there is a sufficient number of securing points. The deck fittings may be unsuitable if they have been poorly maintained. When deck fittings become heavily corroded, they can lose much of their strength. Additionally, the twist locks used to secure the containers to the deck fittings may not hold properly due to corrosion or wastage of the deck fitting.

The vessel may not have sufficient quantities of lashing gear. Lashing gear should be inspected frequently to ensure it is in good condition. Some vessels have tried to use alternative lashing gear that is not designed for the task or not verified to be sufficiently strong enough to ensure the containers remain securely stowed. When in use, lashing gear must also be checked regularly to ensure it remains tight and has not become loose due to cargo shifting and shipboard vibration.

Containers lost overboard are rarely recovered successfully. The contents are almost always a total loss. And some containers lost overboard remain afloat for days. Since they are unlit and tend to float low in the water, they are a serious hazard to navigation for both large commercial vessels, private vessels, the fishing fleet and small craft. Some containers with toxic cargos have released toxins and killed marine life too.

Here are some lessons to be learned and some questions to ask:
– Is there an adequate number of container securing points and sufficient lashing gear to properly secure the containers?
– Are the deck fittings adequate for the load and anticipated dynamic forces?
– What action should you take if you see a deck fitting that appears to be in poor structural condition or is heavily corroded?
– What should you do if the lashing gear is in poor condition or insufficient in quantity?
– What training has been provided to your crews related to stowing and securing containers on non-cellular cargo vessels that do not regularly carry containers?

Read another story from the American Club here: Cargo claims from damage due to water originating from cargo hold bilge systems

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