Industry Issues


Guidelines for the Safe Transport of Containers

In November of 2009, the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) published “Safe Transport of Containers by Sea: Guidelines on Best Practices”. The Guide provides recommended best practices for ships, port facilities, and shippers in the loading and handling of cargo containers.

Containers Lost at Sea

How many containers actually are lost at sea? For years, many different numbers were quoted in answer to this question but none were ever substantiated. So, in 2011, The World Shipping Council conducted the first survey of its members in order to establish a credible estimate. WSC conducted another survey in 2014 and issued an updated report. The survey was conducted again in 2017 with the resulting report issued in July of that year and the survey was updated again in 2020.  Upon review of the results of the twelve-year period (2008-2019) surveyed, the WSC estimates that there were on average a total of 1,382 containers lost at sea each year. Any loss of a container at sea is a loss that carriers seek to prevent and the industry's goal continues to be to reduce those losses to as close to zero as possible. 

In case of containers lost at sea, the 2007 Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention (WRC), the 2010 Hazardous and Noxious Substances Convention (HNSC) and the 1996 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC).help ensure that claimants have access to compensation for the costs associated with the recovery of containers lost overboard from ships at sea, and damage arising from the containers or their contents.In March 2021, the World Shipping Council, together with ICS, IGP&I, ECSA and ASA, published a paper on Containers Lost at Sea - Liability & Insurance, urging governments that have not already done so to ratify and implement the WRC, HNSC and the LLMC.   

Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Office (ILO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) "Guidelines for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU)" were published in 1997 and recognized as being in need of an update. Therefore, following the recommendations of a Global Dialogue Forum organized by the ILO in early 2011, the three organizations (IMO/ILO/UNECE) decided to develop a joint "Code of Practice" for the packing of intermodal Cargo Transport Units (CTU). A group of experts, of which WSC was a member, was tasked with developing the new CTU Code.During the course of 2014, the CTU Code was approved by the governing bodies of the three UN organinzations and has now replaced the 1997 guidelines. In addition, informative material, while not formally a part of the CTU Code, has been developed to support users of the CTU Code. The IMO has published the CTU code and the CTU Code Informative Material as two individual circulars.

Five industry organizations also produced a CTU Code - Quick Guide that includes among other things a Checklist of actions and responsibilities for the guidance of those undertaking the packing of cargoes in freight containers specifically. These are also available in:

Additional information about the background and development of the CTU Code is available on the UNECE website.

Lashing of Containers Aboard Ships

Lashing is the process used to secure containers on board ships. For a number of years, the industry has participated in a joint effort between industry and government, known as Lashing@Sea, which is led by the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands (MARIN) to identify additional measures to prevent the loss of containers overboard.  Additionally, the World Shipping Council has been working with the International Standards Organization (ISO) to amend the relevant ISO standard to require that containers with reduced stacking or racking capacity be marked accordingly so they can be identified, stowed and lashed safely on the ship. This requirement has also been included in the IMO's Safe Container Convention and International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. In addition to new containers, the requirement applies to all existing containers with reduced stacking or racking capacity by no later than 1 July 2015. As part of its efforts to enhance container safety, the IMO has requested the ISO to review its standards regarding lashing equipment and corner castings. Work is at hand at the ISO on these issues with the industry's active participation. The IMO has also issued Revised Guidelines for the Cargo Securing Manual that must be developed for all containerships and which prescribes how containers are to be loaded, stowed and secured throughout the voyage. Proper loading, stowage and lashing, when combined with the new requirement to verify the weight of packed containers prior to stowage aboard a ship, is expected to improve the safety of container transport.

Joint Industry Guidelines for Cleaning of Containers

The container industry has worked collaboratively to develop joint industry guidelines for the cleaning of containers. The purpose of the joint industry guidelines for cleaning of containers is to assist in minimizing the movement of pests by sea containers. The guidelines are complementary to the guidance given in the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units – better known as the CTU Code. They do not replace applicable local regulatory pest contamination measures and requirements nor do they replace individual container operators' cleaning guidelines. Learn more.

Counterfeit Refrigerants: Industry Best Practices

Widespread reports in 2011 of incidents involving the use of counterfeit refrigerants in refrigerated containers led to a series of discussions at the IMO's Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC) that resulted in the industry's development of an industry's best practices report, which was reviewed by the DSC in September 2013 and the Sub-Committee on the Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC) in September 2017.  Learn more and access the best practices report.