COINCIDENTALLY, just as the reefer vessel Horncliff was losing its container deck cargo in the Western Approaches, marine mutual liability insurer, the North of England P&I club reported in the latest issue of its loss-prevention newsletter Signals that container damage and loss “continues to be a problem”.
“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.”
The club points out that container claims can be particularly expensive. In 2006/7 North of England reported 16 cargo claims estimated in excess of US$1m; only two related to container losses but these accounted for 30% of the total value.
Mr 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.”
He adds: “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.”