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Do bigger ships present a Greater challenge?

The ICHCA International Conference in Barcelona - the shipping industry working together to prepare for the mega carriers!

Do bigger ships present a greater challenge?

This question was central during the 2 day ICHCA International Conference in Barcelona recently. And indeed the answer is yes! Whether from the operational side, where large peaks of containers arriving and departing at one time in and around the ports may cause congestion or from the safety and security side with larger concentrations of hazardous materials, bigger ships are challenging the shipping world to come up with answers. Interestingly enough, Barcelona was around the year 1300, the first port to set up a code for sea transport – a fitting venue!

Container ships have double the number of containers carried in the last 10 years, reaching up to 20.000 TEU at one time. The ICHCA conference pulled a number of leading industry parties and experts together (over 200 delegates!) to discuss the issues with a general conclusion that, if we all work together, the industry can come with answers.

From a safety point of view, we learnt from the TT Club and the CINS (Cargo Incident Notification System) organization that insurers and shipping lines are working together to pinpoint and analyse where and why incidents occur during transport on container ships and how these can be prevented. A surprising 65% of incidents (several 1000’s per year) can be traced back
to poor packing and securing, fire being the largest problem. 10-12% of all container movements (about 3 million movements per year) involve dangerous goods and with bigger ships, there may be a concentrated “hidden risk” when such cargos are not properly secured. As one delegate commented “one rogue egg or container can spoil the whole nest”.

How can the issue of poor securing be tackled?

Due to the sheer volume of containers shipped, we cannot expect the authorities, as was done 60 years ago, to check every container and reject the “rogues”. As we concluded during the conference, this can only be done by all parties working together!  From incident analysis like CINS mapping out root causes, promotion of the CTU Code of Practice and education as the ICHCA, TT Club and Exis are doing in the market, clear shipping line recommendations for risk cargo types and suppliers of securing systems, like ourselves, helping bring the message home to our customers of “safety first”.

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