Containerized Cargos


Safe Transport of Containers by Sea
Industry Guidance for Shippers and Container Stuffers


In December 2008, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the World Shipping Council (WSC), published ‘Safe Transport of Containers by Sea: Guidelines on Industry Best Practices’.


The Guidelines have been produced to minimise the dangers to containerships, their crews, and all personnel involved with containers throughout the transport chain, and were developed by an expert industry working group, meeting in London and Washington DC during 2008. The Guidelines have now been presented to governments at IMO where they have been wellreceived. Encouragingly, the Guidelines have also attracted a positive response from shippers’ organisations who, under the umbrella of the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), have lent their support to this brochure.

The primary responsibility for the safe transport of containers by sea rests with containership operators. However,there are many other parties in the transport chain concerned with the safe movement of containers. There are those employed by shipping lines involved with the booking and assignment of cargoes, and the subsequent arrangements for stowage planning; and there are the 

freight forwarders, ports and terminal operators and - particularly important the shippers, from whom the cargo originates. All of these players have important responsibilities which are addressed by the Industry Guidelines.

Particular emphasis is given by the Guidelines to the responsibilities of those involved with the correct packing, labelling and weighing of cargoes when they are stuffed into containers, and the accurate declaration of goods by cargo interests.

Safe Transport of Containers by SeaComprehensive information on the safe stuffing and transport of containers can be found in the joint International Chamber of Shipping and World Shipping Council publication
‘Safe Transport of Containers by Sea: Guidelines on Best Practices’.To order, see back page or contact your maritime bookseller.
All of these activities have a direct bearing on the safety of ships and the reduction of the risks to the lives of ships’ crews and other personnel in the transport chain.

The following advice is an extract from the main guidance on shippers’ responsibilities addressed in the ‘Safe Transport of Containers by Sea’ guidelines.

There have been many incidents over the years of containers being loaded above their stipulated payload.  This can seriously affect stability and the safety of any ship carrying the cargo when it is underway at sea.In many cases the manifests declare cargo within payload limits when it is over the limit.  This is often exposed by the suspicions of a container handler or even following an accident resulting in a weighbridge check.
Overloading is something which can NEVER be condoned and when accepting cargo the following should always be obtained or checked.  The party stuffng the container is responsible for ensuring that:
• The number of pieces, size, weight and volume of any commodity is obtained;
• The payload and volume of the container selected/requested is compared with the cargo particulars to establish whether a weight or volume restriction applies;
• The gross mass of the container is in accordance with the gross mass given on the shipping documents. Where a weight restriction applies, the point loading of cargo must also be checked in order that the tonnes per square metre loading limit is not breached.  Cargoes such as metal ingots come into this category and timber often requires the weight to be spread. Extremely dense cargo can overload a small area of a container’s foor causing it to fail.  For extremely dense cargo, or cargo that puts a high load into a small area of a container’s foor, timber or other dunnage must be used to spread the weight over a larger foor area. As a rule of thumb, foor loading should not exceed 2,500 lb per linear foot of the container or a maximum of 1.5 tonnes per foor supporting cross member.

Road and Rail Limits
Apart from the immediate dangers to the safety of ships created by overloading, the gross weight of the container (cargo plus container tare) must not breach the applicable road or rail limits on all legs of the transit journey.  The importance of observing these limits cannot be overstressed.

In the interests of safety, it is essential to ensure the following with respect to the stowage of Dangerous Goods within a container:
• The cargo must be declared to the appropriate dangerous cargo department;
• All documentation must be completed, signed and accurate;
• Individual packages of DG must be labeled;
• The container must be properly placarded with appropriate placards, marks and signs,
as determined by the IMDG Code, affixed to the outside walls of the container as     specified by the Code;
• The relevant IMDG stowage segregation requirements must be complied with at all   times.

Shifting Cargo
The incidence of cargo moving inside a container during transit is considerable. This is usually because the cargo has not been secured properly, or the packaging is defective.  Apart from the serious risks to ships and the stability of container stacks, several cases have been recorded where road vehicles have turned over due to cargo moving, when negotiating bends.The key issue is to secure cargo efficiently to prevent the initial movement. Although containerized cargo is well protected, it is still subject to the constant movement and stress of maritime transport. In heavy seas, the cargo is exposed to compressive forces due to pitching and rolling. These forces may increase the normal strain on lashings, struts and other securing devices by as much as 100%.  Effective securing of the load throughout the entire transport process is therefore of absolute importance.

Securing in Containers
The cargo in containers needs to be stowed in such a way that the cargo cannot move. The container itself is designed to permit tight, secure stowage of cargo either through compact loading or individual securing.  These facilities include:
• Floor of wood or plywood which permits blocks, stays and wedges to be anchored with nails or screws;
• Internal walls, for the support of light cargo only;
• Corner posts which are suitable for bracing to with timbers and by using lashing points provided inside the container;
• Lashing points are located along top and bottom rails of the container at regular intervals.

It should be noted that the walls, doors and roof of a container are merely a protective shell that cannot withstand concentrated stress.  If the walls or ceiling are used for lashing purposes, the stress on the walls or ceiling must be evenly distributed.

Securing Materials
Most types of cargo can be secured using the following materials (though precautions should be taken to ensure that they are not forbidden for import into the cargo’s country of destination):

• Timber beams, struts, chocks, planks for shoring, bracing and relieving pressure;
• Adjustable wooden battens, rods or strap belts for securing the load in sections, facilitating mechanical discharge;
• Plywood and dunnage to separate several layers of cargo or to segregate different types of cargo into separate sections;
• Foam-rubber cushions and air bags to reduce vibration and prevent the load from shifting;
• Second hand tyres or bags with paper waste or sawdust to fll empty spaces, soften the impact and prevent shifting;
• Nets to secure fragile goods;
• Rope (hemp, manila, sisal, etc), wire, steel bands and terylene straps for lashing;
• Nylon span sets;
• Bolt clips into T section fooring in insulated containers;
• Bulkhead bars.

Securing calculations aboard ship:
forces acting in a seaway are:




Calculations for securing against the above forces follow a prescribed discipline and it is important to refer to this procedure when performing calculations.  The recognized calculations are contained in the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code).

Final Weighing of Container
After finalization of stuffing and securing of containerized cargo, the total container weight must be verified and documented.