Containers falling overboard

Despite recent reports that suggested a decline in incidents of containers falling overboard, there apparently has been another incident this time approaching the Dubai port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  While the full details of the situation are currently unknown, images have begun to appear of the 3,500 TEU container ship UNI Florida arriving in port with visible signs of container damage. The aft stack of boxes has toppled over leaning over the side of the vessel.

As we reported recently, the World Shipping Council (WSC) can document a rather low number of containers lost overboard (<800 per year) and that over the past 12 years half of all containers affected are attributed to a few major incidents.

In May, the APL England sailing east of Australia lost approximately 50 containers overboard in heavy weather; however, the Australia authorities inspected the ship and found several notable deficiencies namely the lashing arrangements for cargo were inadequate and heavy corrosion was found on the securing points for containers on the ship’s deck. 

The WCS study outlined a series of actions that were recommended to improve the safety of container ship operations.

Cargo security APP

The Motorway Buddy is a smartphone app bringing together the information on truck stop facilities and detailed crime (cargo theft) hotspots. Initially it was strictly a driver-friendly compliance and safety management tool that also provides the location of over 300 recognized truck stop facilities across the UK.

The intention is for the new Motorway Buddy to become a unified platform, merging its existing functionality with the theft and crime data provided by National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) to produce a series of visual heat maps updated on a three-month rolling basis, with 12 months’ worth of detail displayed at any one time.

The software development will begin immediately with a view to launching the enhanced features in two to three months’ time. Account holders will have the ability to record parking facility characteristics (CCTV, secure fencing, and security guard) for future use by trucking companies, insurers and other stakeholders.

Another feature enables a driver to enter their statutory hours remaining and current location. The app will indicate stopping points the driver can reach within the allotted time; along with associated crime statistics allowing for an informed decision as to where to park their vehicle.

While available to foreign drivers, the app is in Polish and Romanian language, the extent of the heat map is currently limited to the UK with an eventual pan-European roll-out.

Route assessments are available in North America from both CargoNet and SensiGuard although these will only identify “suspect” hot spots including truck stops. All of these data are historical and while reasonable indicators are not guaranteeing. Driver diligence and vigilance are the best layers of security.

Attacks to ships and crews

Violent attacks against ships and their crews have risen in 2020, with 77 seafarers taken hostage or kidnapped for ransom since January, according to the latest piracy report from the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB).

The Gulf of Guinea off West Africa is increasingly dangerous for commercial shipping, accounting for just over 90% of maritime kidnappings worldwide. Meanwhile ship hijackings are at their lowest since 1993. In total, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 98 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first half of 2020, up from 78 in Q2 2019.

The IMB urges vessels to report any attacks promptly in order to coordinate a successful response. In one recent case commended by IMB, the Nigerian Navy responded promptly to a distress call from a fishing vessel boarded and hijacked by armed assailants in Ivory Coast waters. As a result, the crew were saved, and the ship was prevented from being used as a possible mother vessel to carry out further attacks. Another successful rescue occurred when a product tanker was attacked 127 nautical miles off Bayelsa, Nigeria.

Here are some regional snapshots: Singapore Straits

The Singapore Straits saw 11 incidents in the first half of 2020, raising the risk of collisions in this busy shipping channel, especially at night.  There were another ten attacks in Indonesian anchorages and waterways in Q2 2020 double the number over the previous quarter. Americas IMB is recording more incidents in new areas of Latin America, but says many further attacks go unreported, making the problem more difficult to tackle. The four attacks that were reported in Mexico all targeted offshore vessels. Incidents continue to be reported off Callao anchorage, Peru. Meanwhile, vessels off neighboring Ecuador have recorded incidents each year since 2017, with at least three container ships attacked while underway. The U.S. government issued a warning about the threat posed by pirates to boats and oil installations in the southern Gulf of Mexico. This comes after a number of reported incidents in recent months including an attack late last year on an Italian flagged vessel off the state of Campeche. Somalia No incidents were reported; however, vessels are urged to continue implementing BMP5 recommended practices while transiting these waters. The local pirates still maintain the capability for carrying out attacks.

According to the IMB the increasing threat of piracy just adds to hardships that hundreds of thousands of seafarers working beyond their contracts due to Coronavirus face, namely crew rotations and international travel.

Inspections on US-flagged vessels

The United States Coast Guard issued its 2019 Flag State Control Domestic Annual Report, summarizing statistics regarding inspections and enforcement of regulations on US-flagged vessels. In comparison to last year, the number of vessel inspections increased by 1,423 and the average number of deficiencies identified per inspection increased from 1.26 to 1.48. These statistics can be attributed to the new towing vessel fleet, increased oversight inspections and post casualty inspection campaign conducted on small passenger vessels.

In 2019, there were 111 Flag State Detentions. Action code “30 – Ship Detained” is a control action that may be imposed on any inspected vessel type, including Small Passenger Vessels and Barges, and is selected when technical or operational-related deficiencies exist that individually or collectively indicate a serious failure, or lack of effectiveness, of the implementation of the Safety Management System (SMS).

For vessels that do not have an SMS, this classification is assigned when objective evidence indicates that a serious substandard condition is not being proactively managed by the company, vessel owner, and/ or operator.

Top 5 detention deficiencies:

  • Fire Safety
  • Propulsion and Auxiliary Machinery
  • Life Saving Appliances
  • Structural Conditions
  • General Safety

The full report in PDF format is available at: USCG-Flag-State-Control-in-the-United-States-2019 (Safety4Sea, 6/11/2020) 

Ships tracking

Track all the ships in the world. What they’re carrying, where they’re loading, where they’re unloading. Create a near-real-time map of how all commodities and goods flow across the globe. 

Developed by International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists and data scientists the “nowcasting” research offers a 30,000-foot view of how COVID-19 has reshaped trade flows. If it works as intended, it will offer an early warning system to governments, and by extension, companies and investors.

The platform utilizes automatic identification system (AIS) shipping-position data. It assesses import and export vessel capacity measured in deadweight tons (DWT) by country and ship type. It then uses machine-learning algorithms to estimate metric tons of cargo carried with the updated capacity and cargo tonnage figures are available for download via UN Comtrade.

The caveat to the new product is that it is openly described as “experimental.” the ongoing refinements and all estimates are subject to change and are not official IMF statistics or endorsed by the organization. Some industry insiders have issues with the steepness of the volume-freight rate curves but despite its shortcomings, the new shipping data stands out. 

This new offering from IMF is free, fully available to the public and updated weekly. To visualize the data go to: https://comtrade.un.org/data/monitor To download it: https://comtrade.un.org/data/ais

Cargo theft solution

WABCO, a leading global supplier of technologies and services designed to improve the safety, efficiency and connectivity of commercial vehicles, is combining with Belgium-based Sioen Industries to combat the rising issue of cargo theft incidents with its new “Detector” solution.

Sioen has upgraded its Dynatex PROTECTOR technology to produce a smart, multi-layered tarpaulin with conductive layers that can be fitted to trailer doors and sides. WABCO will power this technology via its advanced Fleet Management Solution (FMS), TX-TRAILERGUARD™. An alarm will be automatically triggered should the tarpaulin be tampered with. Drivers are alerted through an audible warning or an in-cab notification. An alarm is also sent to the fleet back office in real time.

Detector is a fully working solution having been tested in the field by a number of leading fleets managing over 15,000 Full Truck and Less than Truckload (LTL) shipments annually across Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the CIS countries and the Middle East.

WABCO also has an OptiLock™ device, an advanced wireless electronic door lock which enables remote live monitoring and management of trailer access further improving their ability to control potential trailer breaches in real time.

Most of the trucks operating in Europe are soft sided and curtain slashing is, by far, the main method used by thieves to gain access to goods. Cargo theft is an increasing issue; in addition to disrupting the customers’ supply chain, it also has a significant adverse impact for fleet owners from damaged trailers and vehicles to downtime and increased liability claims.

CTU Code

An international push continues for the adoption of safe cargo-packing practices to avoid the loss of billions of dollars’ worth of goods and equipment annually in preventable accidents. Five international freight transport and cargo-handling organizations collaborated on the newly released CTU Code: A Quick Guide which condenses their advice on the packing of all types of cargo into 13 pages, and the Container Packing Checklist, which itemizes requirements for the packing of multimodal freight containers in a yes-or-no format.

The Container Owners Association (COA), Global Shippers Forum (GSF), International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), TT Club and World Shipping Council (WSC) — said that the guide is designed to improve awareness and understanding of good practices in the packing of goods in cargo transport units (CTUs). Many cases of ship fires and container stack failures, vehicle rollovers and train derailments can be traced to poor packing practices. 

The CTU Code, issued in 2014, applies to packing and transport operations throughout the supply chain, and was developed by the International Maritime Organization, International Labor Organization and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. However, in subsequent years there hasn’t been a significant improvement in the incident statistics. 

It does seem that shippers the primary critical control point are generally not aware of the document; frankly it is long and quite detailed which likely does not lend to its appeal. Perhaps the condensed version, The Quick Guide, will be more digestible yet still covering the end-to-end packing process and includes steps on securing cargo and the handling of dangerous goods.

Here are the links to the referenced material:



Guidance for Safe Transport of Cargo in Passenger Cabin

As airline passenger figures dipped this spring as a result of travel restrictions spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, cargo demand remained high. However, a capacity crunch was preventing cargo demands from being fully met.

Reacting quickly, many airlines pivoted and began the process of commissioning passenger aircraft to carry cargo, including mail, medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other goods. But before these aircraft, colloquially referred to as “preighters,” can take flight, several safety details must be considered.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has provided direction to airlines in a document titled “Guidance for Safe Transport of Cargo in Passenger Cabin” reminding operators to conduct a safety risk

assessment when repurposing aircraft. IATA officials note all safety regulations associated with a change in aircraft utilization must be complied with before utilizing the passenger cabin of an aircraft for carrying cargo.

IATA also notes that modifications to the passenger cabin, such as the removal of passenger seats, must be approved by an airline’s National Aviation Authority and all operations procedures need to be documented and properly published. 

Among other details, IATA’s general recommendations also include using crew members to survey all areas of the cabin during the flight and ensuring the crew has access to those areas in the case of fire or other unanticipated event.

There are three allowable scenarios for loading cargo in the passenger section of an aircraft. 

One option is for cargo to be stored on seats, between seats and in bins. Cargo can also be stored in specific seat containers or seat bags. The third option is for cargo to be secured (certified nets and lashing belts or tie-down straps) on the floor when the aircraft’s seats are removed.

“Technical Standard Orders (TSO) certified nets and lashing belts, or tie down straps, are used to secure cargo on passenger seats on the floor of the passenger cabin,” add officials at Emirates.

Dangerous goods and cargo-aircraft-only dangerous goods cannot be transported in a passenger cabin. Rather, they must be carried in the cargo compartment. 

IATA requires its member airlines to monitor contractors and the cargo services they perform.

Here is the link to the IATA Guidelines: https://www.iata.org/contentassets/094560b4bd9844fda520e9058a0fbe2e/guidance-safetransportation-cargo-passenger-cabin.pdf

The information for much of the content was taken from a number of public sources that, to the best of the undersigned’s knowledge, is accurate. The views expressed in this document should be regarded as the personal opinion of the undersigned and not necessarily of the Chubb.

If anyone wants additional information on any of the topics covered contact the authors.