Abandoned containers
© Dejan Lazarevic

The Bureau International des Containers (BIC) has introduced new functions to its BoxTech database of container equipment that will enable the registration of box sales as well as alerts in cases of operator bankruptcies.

According to the BIC, CMA CGM and Maersk Line have already adopted the new features, and they are “working hard” to sign up MSC and other carriers.

The Paris-headquartered non-profit organisation functions as the industry’s global container prefix registry and said the ‘sold’ alert function will address the hitherto problem of disposed containers assets being used illegally.

“This will help prevent improperly marked containers from circulating with the markings of the previous owner, improving safety, reducing risk and helping to encourage the proper neutralisation of sold containers,” said the BIC.

Boxes that are sold on the second-hand container market should ideally have their prefixes erased, but in practice this is not always carried out due to the vast numbers involved.

“CMA CGM was an early adopter of BoxTech and Maersk one of our more recent,” said secretary general Douglas Owen.

“Both have provided input that has been instrumental in developing new ideas and updates for BoxTech, in particular the new container sales function,” he explained.

Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, head of equipment at Maersk Line, said: “The new container sale function offers additional clarity, showing a clear dividing line between our current fleet and containers that have been sold.”

A second new enhancement is the BoxTech Recovery Alert function which enables container owners and leasing companies to create alert lists for specific units in cases of bankruptcies, or in situations of lost or stolen containers.

Indeed, when Hanjin Shipping collapsed last year, leasing companies had around 750,000 teu of equipment out on hire to the South Korean carrier. The containers were scattered around the world – stuck on ships, locked in terminals and storage depots, arrested by creditors and abandoned by shippers refused restitution by depots and terminals.

It was not until almost a month after Hanjin’s demise that the leasing groups were in a position to issue a joint alert through the medium of the Container Owners Association (COA), listing the prefix numbers of the boxes they were looking to recover.

A statement released through the COA said: “If you come across any equipment previously on lease to Hanjin, this document will help identify the rightful owner and facilitate its return.”

Although the new BoxTech facility would not have eased the financial hit to the container owners from unpaid daily hire – as well as from the premature termination of the leasing contracts – it would have added much-needed transparency to the recovery operation.

Virginie Charroyer, assistant general secretary, new codes, at the BIC told The Loadstar it was hoped that more carriers and container owners would follow the lead of CMA CGM and Maersk in signing up to the new features and thus further improve the transparency and security of the industry.

The BIC is currently exhibiting at Intermodal Europe in Amsterdam which runs until Thursday.

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