Container Stuffing Photo 253867089 © Bristolviewfinder
© Bristolviewfinder

Shippers, vessel operators and container owners are locked in discussions over who should be responsible for cleaning containers, as supply chains have been identified as the major carrier source of invasive species around the globe.

New guidance from the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) advises shippers to return dirty containers to shipping lines or container owners, rather than bear the cost of cleaning themselves.

The guidance uses the acronym Pest to advise shippers: to push back if containers are dirty; exclude organisms while packing containers through the inspection of goods, while making sure containers are on a hard standing, rather than dirt or soil, and, where possible, that containers are not packed under lights which attract insects; storage of containers before handing the box over for transport – see the doors are closed to prevent the entry of unwanted organisms; and if packers see insects or insect matter, dead or alive, they should tell the relevant authorities.

Shipping lines, however, are reluctant to take on cleaning containers and are attempting to pass the buck to shippers, according to the GSF which is resisting this move.

Carrier representative the World Shipping Council (WSC) told The Loadstar: “The global container supply network is complex and has a number of touchpoints. At each touchpoint there is a risk of transfer of invasive species, and each touchpoint is controlled by a different party – container yard, trucker, packer, warehouse, ocean carrier and more.”

And the WSC pointed out: “Each and every participant has a responsibility to inspect, handle and/or clean the container when it is in their care so as to prevent the transfer of invasive species to the next part of the supply chain.”

The WSC has produced an animated film advising supply chain stakeholders of this message, which can be seen here:

The animated film points out that containers should be inspected at every step of the way, including by ship operators, but also advises that shippers should sweep out and clean containers before packing.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has identified the movement of containers as a major contributor to the spread of organisms around the globe, which has caused losses of $220bn in production and a further $70bn in costs as nations attempt to remedy the damage caused.

The secretary of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), an intergovernmental treaty signed by more than 180 countries, Osama El- Lissy told The Loadstar in September the way to deal with invasive species was to create what he called a “safeguard continuum”, which begins at the point of loading.

Mr El Lissy focused on the need for collaboration, not just between nations but also between governments and the private sector, including all the stakeholders along the supply chain.

According to the IPPC, it starts with ensuring containers are cleaned before they are delivered to shippers for packing; they need to swept and washed, then when a container has been loaded and the doors closed, a quick inspection of the outside would make sure there are no organisms attached to the box.

In an effort to develop safe practices within supply chains, the Commission for Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) is discussing the issues at its 17th session, due to take place in Rome in March.

The message at the biodiversity conference in Canada, COP 15, over the past week was that crops and forests and indigenous plant and animal life must be protected, with each element key to human survival, with global warming and changing weather patterns allowing the spread of organisms that challenge local animals and plant life, both on land and at sea.

Guidance on the safe and hygienic packing of intermodal containers is provided by the CTU Code, a 300-plus page manual of safe practices, which also includes other cargo transport units such as trucks, rail cars and swap bodies, said Mr Hookham.

According to the GSF the London conference [in September] was a wake-up call for supply chain practitioners to understand the importance of this issue and the threat it poses to natural resources, food supplies and agricultural industries around the world.

He added: “The packing of containers is a routine and widespread activity in global logistics. Over 230 million container movements occur each year. As a shipper, your business may not be to do the packing itself, but you could help avoid yet further regulation by checking that the basic precautions are being taken to reduce the risk of pest contamination of the containers in which your goods are moving.”

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