Amid an alarming trend of containers lost overboard, the Swedish P&I Club has published a 32 page guide offering guidance on planning and loading the containers. According to the Club’s statistics, the main reason for containers being lost overboard is related to container vessels navigating in heavy weather, combined with crew failure to reduce speed and/or alter course to avoid it or alleviate its effect. The reasons can often be attributed to a series of multiple failures, rather than a single cause, but raising awareness of these issues to both ship and shore staff will serve to prevent accidents from happening.
The guide also notes that other common factors are
– Containers not being correctly stuffed or declared by the shipper;
– Containers not being loaded as per the stowage plan;
– Containers not secured in accordance with the Cargo Securing Manual (CSM);
– Lashing strengths not checked against the loading computer’s lashing module;
The vessel being too stiff with an excessive GM (Metacentric Height).
Planning, Loading and Stability: Loss prevention advice
– The Cargo Securing Manual (CSM) should be approved by the vessel’s Classification Society and/or the Flag State Administration.
– There should be procedures in place for calibrating the loading computer.
– The loading computer should include a lashing module. This is obligatory if Classification Society route specific lashing rules apply.
– The CSM is not accurate if the actual GM significantly exceeds the design GM. The CSM will specify a maximum GM for a vessel, which should not be exceeded.
– Sailing with an excessive GM i.e. in a ‘stiff’ condition, results in increased acceleration forces and more violent rolling motion.
If the maximum GM is exceeded this could result in the following:
– Higher transverse acceleration
– Overstressing stowage and securing devices
– Overstressing the ship’s structure
– Damaging containers
Sailing with a very low GM should also be avoided to ensure positive stability is maintained throughout the voyage and during cargo operations.
Before loading, the Master should ensure that the container weights are declared as per SOLAS requirements and that the maximum stack weight and height limits are not exceeded.
Unusual stowage plans, loading conditions or voyages, that may not be allowed for in the CSM require particular attention and it is essential that the cargo planner discusses the stowage plan with the Master to identify any potential problems.
Avoid loading heavy containers above light containers, particularly in the upper tiers, unless permitted by the CSM and subject to forces being checked on the loading computer.
Lashing plans provided to stevedores should be checked against the CSM at each loading.
Instructions relating to the correct application of the lashing arrangements should be available to the stevedores at every bay.
It is important that the verified gross mass established for each container is applied to the vessel’s loading plan.
– Lashings should be applied in accordance with the CSM.
– Loose lashings increase the risk of contact between the containers at the top of the stacks and greater racking force on the containers at the bottom of the stacks.
– The lashing force calculations should be performed by a Class-approved loading computer with a lashing module.
– Before departure, the Chief Officer should ensure that all manual twistlocks have been locked, that the wires of SATs are in the correct position and that all turnbuckles are tight. Do not over-tighten turnbuckles.
– Only use certified lashing equipment.
– The Chief Officer should ensure that both the fixed and the portable securing equipment are inspected regularly for signs of wear or damage and deficient items repaired or replaced as required.
– All required inspections and maintenance should be included in the Planned Maintenance System (PMS).
– Keep detailed records of maintenance, inspections and tests completed both by the crew and third parties.
– It is important that all lashing equipment is in good condition and that any defective equipment is removed to prevent it from being used.
– Avoid using a combination of manual, semi-automatic and fully-automatic twistlocks in the same stowage, unless this is approved in the CSM.
– Ensure that openings and hatches on deck are properly closed and secured before sailing.
– The stowage arrangements and lashing equipment should be in strict conformance with the CSM.
– The CSM should be written in a language understood by the crew and stevedores.
– Portable gear should be periodically inventoried to ensure the complement of the various components complies with the CSM.
– Weather routeing should be used to avoid the worst environmental conditions, but the Master should also use his/her own judgment to make course and speed adjustments during the voyage as necessary, to reduce the impact of the heavy weather.
– Conduct regular visual inspections on deck, particularly when heavy weather is expected, and tighten the lashings where necessary. Inspect and tighten again following heavy weather.
– If lashings are tightened when the vessel is rolling and pitching, there is a risk of over-tightening the turnbuckles.
– The crew should keep proper records of all inspections and action taken to mitigate the effects of heavy weather.
– When heavy weather is encountered, the OOW should reduce speed and alter course as early as possible to avoid heavy rolling.
– Address heavy weather issues (cargo stowage and ship handling) during seminars and in ship simulators.
– Distribute circular letters to vessels, ensuring that crews are aware of the problems associated with heavy weather.
– Complete a risk assessment for encountering heavy weather.
– If the vessel has an electronic motion monitoring, forecasting and decision support tool this could detect if the vessel is at risk of parametric rolling. It is imperative that the motion limits are set. It is important that all officers are trained and familiarised in the proper use of such systems.
What to do if a container is lost
In such a situation, it is important to implement the correct emergency procedures to ensure that the situation is contained, that the correct measures are taken to minimise environmental impact, and that the safety of both crew and other vessels is not compromised.
– Respond to emergency situations, such as fire and hazardous chemical leaks, but do not place crew in unnecessary danger.
Request emergency assistance if required.
– Establish what is inside the lost container(s) e.g. dangerous cargo.
– Alert the relevant Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) and all vessels in the vicinity of the hazard to navigation.
– Advise the company Designated Person Ashore (DPA) so an emergency response can be initiated.
– Consider the planned voyage and whether a deviation to a safe port is required.
– Broadcast voice and text safety messages.
– Maintain a detailed and accurate log of events and communications.
– Save the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR).
– Ensure that all relevant cargo documentation is saved.
– Assess if there is any damage to the vessel and ensure safe access for crew.
Download the 32 page pdf guide for containers lost overboard: Swedish Club Container focus Preventing the loss of containers at sea
Read another article about the Swedish P&I Club: Overtightening of locating bolts led to engine failure and grounding