Our trade association BIFA has brought to our attention a 'Best Practice Guide' produced by FIATA in response to industry concerns regarding the quality of the global container stock.
Grange Shipping has experienced several issues with poor container quality over recent years and we take this opportunity to highlight measures that exporters and importers can implement to safeguard against cargo damage / loss or additional costs.
Shipping lines have a legal responsibility to maintain and regularly inspect their container fleet, however, it has become obvious that the global container fleet is ageing and standards are slipping.
Recommendations relevant to our customers from this guide include:
- The merchant (shipper/exporter) must check the empty container provided by the shipping line is 'fit for purpose'. The shipper/exporter must thoroughly check the container (is the container clean and dry - free from previous cargo residues, lashing materials, marks / placards / signs, waste, pests, infestation, plants, plant products, odours) and perform a light test to verify there are no holes in the container. Have reefer or food grade containers been steam cleaned prior to presentation at the load point? These inspections can only be physically performed at the loading point just prior to loading. Unfortunately these inspections do not safe guard against delay or additional costs as the container may have already been hauled many miles and returning a container not fit for purpose will incur additional haulage costs (shipping lines will not compensate merchants for additional haulage costs even if the containers are found not fit for purpose). However, inspections will safeguard against cargo damage or loss that may be caused by a container not fit for purpose.
- If a merchant (shipper/exporter) decides to accept an unclean container prior to loading the container (to avoid additional costs of returning the unclean container and exchanging it for a clean container), a photo/picture should be taken and communicated to Grange Shipping or the shipping line. Shipping lines should record and accept such remarks and inform their destination office accordingly to ensure that the receiver/importer/consignee does not incur unjust cleaning charges.
- When it comes to returning an empty container, the merchant (receiver/importer/consignee) has a responsibility to treat the container with care and return it to the shipping line in the same state it was delivered to the shipper/exporter at origin prior to loading and shipping. The receiver/importer/consignee should remove all traces of cargo, lashing materials, dunnage, marks / placards / signs applied to the container for the shipment and ensure the container is left clean. As a minimum standard, the container should be thoroughly swept but receivers/importers/consignees should consider additional cleaning as necessary.