In the latest issue of its loss-prevention newsletter Signals the North of England P&I club reports that container damage and loss continues to be a problem on container ships.
‘Container losses and collapsed stows in heavy weather continue to occur,’ says the club’s head of loss-prevention Tony Baker. ‘Such weather is not altogether unexpected and it has highlighted a number of areas of poor practice that need to be rectified if the industry is to keep a lid on spiralling claims costs.’
Container claims can be particularly expensive. In 2006/7 North of England reported 16 cargo claims estimated in excess of US$1 million; only two related to container losses but these accounted for 30% of the total value.
Baker says there are four principal factors behind recent incidents: failure of automatic twist-locks in lashing systems; failure to stow and secure containers in accordance with the ship’s cargo securing manual; mis-declared overweight containers; and failure to anticipate and minimise the effect of heavy weather.
‘All of these factors can be resolved if shipowners and their officers take a more diligent approach to stowing and securing containers,’ says Baker. ‘Problems with fully automatic twist-locks are well-documented and stack heights should be reduced or heavy weather avoided until suspect equipment is replaced. If heavy or high-cube containers form part of the mix, there shouldn’t be a problem if stowage and lashing is done in accordance with the cargo securing manual. Making proper use of the ship’s planning software, and understanding any shortcomings, is also crucial.
‘Mis-declared overweight containers may be spotted by crane strain gauges and can possibly be prevented by closer shore-side monitoring of container stuffing. And finally, with the extent and increased accuracy of weather information and weather-routeing systems today, it should be possible for container-ship masters to amend voyage plans to minimise the effect of heavy weather,’ he says.