As more bulk and oversize cargo gets transported in containers, some shippers are abusing equipment, says the Institute of International Container Lessors.
The Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL), which represents major container and chassis providers, says its members “have seen an increase in container damages caused by loading and unloading methods that aim to reduce costs with cargo packaging and stowage while speeding up the loading and unloading operations.”
“The transport of bulk and oversized cargoes continues to shift towards containerized transportation seeking lower freight rates, shorter transit times and other operational efficiencies,” notes IICL. “While shipping containers are the number one choice to move most types of cargoes, some preventive measures are required to protect the cargo and the container from damages during loading, transit and discharge.”
For example, containers may need to be lined with chipboard or plywood to keep cargo from bulging the sides of containers or scratching interior paint. It may be necessary to install bulkheads to prevent shifting cargo from damaging container doors, IICL said, adding that cargo must be dry, and some cargo may be inappropriate for containers.
IICL has issued a technical bulletin illustrating the kind of damage that improperly stowed cargo can do to containers and suggestions on how to properly package various commodities.
It also cautions about new equipment that has been developed to lift the door end of containers and then drop bulk cargo inside. In other cases, unloading of cargo is done by tilting the front end and dumping the cargo.
IICL suggests a document developed by three U.N. agencies, the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTUs), should be observed when stowing and discharging cargo in containers.
That document says, “Depending on the internal friction and the angle of repose of the solid bulk cargo, the CTU may be inclined to a certain degree to facilitate the loading or unloading operation. However, it should always be ensured that the walls of the CTU are not overstressed by the filling operation. It is not acceptable to turn a CTU by 90 degrees to an upright position for filling, unless the CTU is especially approved for this method of handling.”
Types of cargo that IICL says can cause severe damage to containers include minerals, coal, scrap metal, used engines and parts, cocoa beans and fish meal.
Luiz Goncalves, IICL’s technical director, said, “While shippers continue to look for ways to shift towards containerization and its benefits, there are areas where shortcuts are being taken with dire consequences to the cargo, the container and possibly to the carrier.
“Containers are being misused as being ‘the package’ without the proper cargo packing, lining of interior container interior and the recommended cargo stowage methods being employed,” he said. “While packing cost is possibly one of the drivers for the shortcuts, the supply chain sees large repair bills down the road.”
He said IICL issued its technical bulletin with the hope that it “can call attention to container damages that are avoidable by using proper shipping procedures.”
Damages to coatings, the walls and floors of containers can result in the need for repairs and refurbishments that can cost thousands of dollars. And in some cases, damage leads to the constructive total loss of the unit, said the lessor association.
IICL members include Beacon, CAI, Direct ChassisLink, FlexiVan, SeaCube, Textainer, TOUAX, TRAC Intermodal and Triton International Limited.