Shipping containers are indispensable to global trade and they function as the backbone of the commerce industry. 90% of the international imports and exports by volume take place through shipping containers cruising the seas. The number of containers in operation is rising substantially with the ever-growing trade and commerce among nations. Containers travel through various modes of transportation that include not only mega-ships but also intermodal transports like rail, roads and inland waterways. The logistics chain has developed into a highly modernized and sophisticated process, but shipping containers nonetheless undergo risks of damage.
Regulations and Standards
Under the authority of the United Nations and its sponsored organizations, several international conventions stipulate minimum quality standards for containers and their chassis. Here’s a list of the primary conventions, laws, regulations and standards that apply to containers and their chassis:
International Convention for Safe Containers, 1972 (CSC)
Under the ambit of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), this pact came into force on 6 September 1977. It seeks to take care of a high level of safety to human life in the transport and handling of containers through reasonable test procedures and strength requirements. It facilitates the transport of containers by specifying consistent international safety regulations. Transportation of containers with invalid CSC plates attracts a fine.
Over 30 International Standards exist in this sphere covering different types of freight containers.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) formulated the Unified Container Inspection and Repair Criteria (UCIRC). In this criteria, repairs are suggested on the basis of their seriousness and classified as “acceptable” or “not acceptable”.
The Common Interchange Criteria (CIC) developed by the Container Owners’ Association seeks to eliminate avoidable repairs and thus reduce costs.
The Approved Continuous Examination Program (ACEP) states that members are obligated to check their containers independently and repair if necessary. The CSC plate mentions the details of container owners if they are participants in this program.
Immaculate shipping containers are vital constituents of functional and efficient supply chain processes. Their upkeep guarantees the prevention of costly repairs and ensures the safety of cargo. While performing routine inspections of containers, the common defects often detected are:
Odors from previously discharged cargo can linger on and transmit to freshly loaded cargo. The use of biodegradable cleaning agents will leave the container fresh.
Grease and dirt left behind from machinery and equipment can get transferred to newly loaded cargo. Clean such containers with industrial-grade cleaning agents.
Cavities on the shell:
Water and dust particles can seep in through holes in ceilings, floors, and walls. Holes develop from dents and impacts caused during shipping, intermodal transportation and handling of the containers. Check the interiors of the containers with light beams to detect holes. The exteriors must be inspected for erosion, dents and damage to paint coatings. Erosion is controlled by the application of a fresh coat of weather-proof paint on the affected areas. Large holes can be patched by welding. Timely detection of flaws restricts repair costs.
Damaged wooden floors:
The floors are typically made of plywood or bamboo, but they deteriorate over time. Floorboards can disintegrate from repeated stuffing and de-stuffing of cargo. Durable weather-proof coating can impart protection. Replace broken floorboards and treat the interiors with industrial-grade disinfectants; air dry the containers to remove dampness and prevent the growth of mold.
Meticulous container checks by qualified inspectors are mandatory. Let’s look into the areas that fall under the scope of such inspections:
- Documentation: Container number, name of the inspector, date and time should be entered.
- Doors: Hinges, Linings, Placard holder, Gaskets, Retainers, Rods, J-Bars. Roof : Corner Fittings, Top-end Rail, Roof panels, Roof bows, and identify leaks.
- Sides: Top and bottom rails, Corner posts, Forklift pockets, Placard Holder, ISO numbers, Plywood planks, Kick Rail, Vertical Plate, Horizontal Rail and leaks.
- Front: Placard Holder, Corner Posts, Panels, ISO numbers, Plywood Lining, Kick Plate, Load bearing surface and leaks.
- Bottom: Corner fittings, Bottom end rail, Bottom Side Rail, Door Sill Guards, Cross member, and Forklift Tunnels.
- Floor: Fasteners, Threshold Plate, Tie-down gadgets, and identify leaks.
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