One in every six container movements results in damaged cargo, according to the ILO report.

Safety in Container Movements Concerns ILO

One in every six container journeys results in damaged cargo, and many incidents are caused by bad packing, according to a new report.

The risk of accidents in container shipping are increases as its market share increases, from about 16 percent of the world's movement of goods, according to an International Labour Organization report prepared for an ILO Global Dialogue Forum on Safety in the Supply Chain in Relation to Packing of Containers, set to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 21-22. The meeting will seek a common approach throughout the supply chain to ensure the application of the appropriate standards for packing containers.

Container shipped began in 1956, and today, 20-, 40- and 45-foot-long international freight containers can carry tons of cargo and support as many as nine similarly loaded containers, according to ILO. Their use continues to increase, with more and more of them carrying cargo from China to the United States and Europe.

"The majority of these containers are from established shippers with sophisticated dispatch facilities who understand the stresses and forces to which containers are subjected throughout the supply chain," according to the organization. "However, there is also evidence that many accidents in the sector are attributed to poor practices in relation to packing of containers, including overloading."

"If you think any fool can stuff a container, think again. One in six container journeys results in damaged cargo. Many incidents are caused, or made worse, by bad packing. Losses exceed $5 billion a year, according to the United Kingdom P&I Club, one of the oldest protection and indemnity insurers worldwide," said Marios Meletiou, ILO's senior Ports and Transports specialist. "This has caused major concern particularly because the victims of accidents attributed to poor practices in packing containers can be the general public, transport workers, or their employers, who have no control over the packing of containers.

"For a better understanding of the forces, packers should be invited to participate in interactive training programs that are readily accessible and appropriate. It would also be relevant to examine whether there is a need for accredited certification to demonstrate a candidate's successful completion of the course," said Meletiou.

One training program is the ILO Portworker Development Programme, which includes two training units on packing containers.

"The ILO report shows that there are a multitude of stakeholders in the various sectors involved in the supply chain. An analysis of these findings demonstrates that the stowage and securing of goods, the establishment of responsibilities and implementation of rules, regulations, and best practice, as well as the interlinking of all the players in the supply chain and communication (or lack thereof) will all have an impact on safety in the industry," said Alette van Leur, director of ILO's Sectoral Activities Department.

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