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Standards and regulations – guiding the cargo safely to its destination

Safety first - Article series on the safety issues in shipping:

Standards and regulations – guiding the cargo safely to its destination

The transportation of goods on land and on sea has through decades been ruled by national and international regulations making sure the transport is safe, no goods will fall out of vehicles and that the stability of the vehicles on road or on sea is not endangered.

“ Cargo, cargo units and cargo trans-port units shall be so packed and secured within the unit as to prevent, throughout the voyage, damage or hazard to the ship and the persons on board. Appropriate precautions shall be taken during loading and transport of heavy cargoes or cargoes with abnormal physical dimensions to ensure that no structural damage to the ship occurs and to maintain adequate stability throughout the voyage, states the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS.

For those working with cargo the aim is clear but the technical standards have fallen short in clearly defining the practices, e.g. dimensioning the strength of items involved. Hence, new regulations have been published and standards updated. 

The codes on how to load, stow and secure the goods

The cargo information, which is required when shipping loads, includes dimensions like the gross mass of the cargo unit and the size of the load. This information can be – through several methods – converted into numbers, strength and dimensions for securing the cargo.

The codes for loading, stowing and securing are based on basic acceleration values. This approach has been chosen for practical reasons; a simplified static standard level is defined in a fairly straightforward way, avoiding the complicated and uncertain dynamical models.

The strain and physical loads on goods and their packaging can be evaluated considering the Newton’s 3rd rule on force and counter force – the packaging should be able to withstand the load’s mass and the securing forces that cause strain to the packaging during the voyage.

For reasons such as economical factors, some parties consider doing less than these guidelines and standards require or advice, but this kind of risk-taking can have severe economical impacts – not to mention causing a potential hazard to people and the environment. These safety standards should not be overlooked, as for example a vehicle on sea losing stability could cause major damage for the cargo and the transportation vehicle itself, it would endanger the working conditions and the health of the employees as well as the safety of the environment. So the consequences are not merely an economical issue but also include the risk of criminal liability. When it comes to safety, cutting costs is a bad idea.

Training – an effective way to ensure security

The best way of making sure safety matters are handled correctly is to have a trained staff with up-to-date knowledge on safety regulations and standards.

It is advisable for the companies to assess their training needs. They need to define and apply issues relevant on each level of opera-tion, so that the employees in different roles can adopt the proper ways of working, ensuring safety and quality throughout the whole intermodal transport chain.

In the next Finnlines News’ Safety First article we will have a more hands-on approach to cargo safety at Finnlines.

Standards and guidelines in a nutshell

> International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS): Often regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships, the main objective of the SOLAS Convention is to specify minimum standards for the ships to ensure their safety. On stowage and securing of cargo, more detailed definitions are given in the Code of safe practice on cargo stowage and securing, along with technical instructions and examples, that are interpreted into the vessel specific Cargo Securing Manuals (CSM). The purpose of the CSS Code is to provide an international standard to promote the safe stowage and securing of cargoes and cargo units onboard vessels.

> Standard 12195-1, 2010 edition. Load restraining on road vehicles - Safety - Part 1: Calculation of securing forces: Even if the heading refers to road transport, the basic dimensioning accelerations on different sea areas on European coast lines as well as calculation methods for basic cargo securing have been given. The majority of European governments have replaced the national requirements and old standards with this common European standard.

> Cargo securing for road transport - 2014 European best practices guidelines: This book, often referred to simply as Best Practice Guidelines or BPG, provides practical advice and instructions on loading/unloading and securing cargo including advice on vehicles to all the persons involved, reaching from carriers to shippers. These guidelines aim to provide a tool for adequate cargo securing for situations that may occur in normal traffic conditions. They also serve as a basis for training for drivers. BPG has been translated into 22 different European languages.

> EU-co-operation project “CARING” – Cargo securing to prevent cargo damages on road, sea, rail and air took place between October 2011 and November 2013 with the aim to create up-to-date learning material, namely Presentation Material, a Teacher’s Manual and a Student Book.

> IMO/ILO-UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code). As many disruptions and accidents in transports originate from defective packing, stowage, support and securing of goods into transport, a new code for Cargo Transport Units (containers, trucks, railcars, flat racks, roll trailers, swap-bodies etc.) – the CTU code has been published at the end of 2014. This code goes deep into the technical knowledge and skills required for the tasks, the responsibilities of the parties involved, choice of units, documentation and training requirements. As a non mandatory global code of practice for the handling and packing of shipping cargoes, the CTU-code serves as reference guide in preparing CTU’s for transport of goods by sea and land. It also provides material with specific instructions on training. Although the CTU code is voluntary it should be understood as serious advice and can also become a basis for international harmonising of the legislations.