Episode 7: The incoming inspection of the container

A significant proportion of all general cargo shipments worldwide are handled by container. Yet millions of these metal boxes are on the move by sea, rail and road.
They are subject to particular transport stresses everywhere and sometimes shippers have no inhibitions about handling them with little care when loading.

Although there are global rules for checking and repairing the container and everyone should, at least in theory, be in order, all the boxes have more or less extensive damage.
It is therefore imperative that the container undergoes an incoming inspection before loading.

Reasons for an incoming goods inspection

Chapter 4.2.3 of the CTU Code 2015, the international regulations for handling containers, assigns responsibility for this to the shipper or packer. It states: “The packer should ensure that the CTU is checked before packing and that the condition of the CTU is suitable for the cargo to be transported”. Further line enumerations follow.

What would a customer think if he received his rather expensive goods in such packaging? He would probably think: I hope my goods are undamaged and take a much closer look to see if everything is in order.

In chapter 8.2, the regulations explain the control of the freight transport unit, but remain vague in the details.

It is therefore necessary for the shipping company to look into the matter and determine which type of CTU is suitable for its needs and what other characteristics need to be fulfilled.

The following explanations are the result of many container inspections or loading escorts in the field.

The truck driver often sets the wrong course by opening the doors of the container after arrival, folding them down and then driving it to the ramp.

The important check of the CSC sticker is then no longer so easily possible. The driver does this because it is common practice with many shippers/packers and an incoming goods inspection is not carried out.

Container inspection in two steps

The incoming goods inspection

It is not uncommon for companies to have to pay for repairs to containers even though they did not cause them.

Conversely, if no incoming inspection is carried out and no defects are found, this means that the container was in order when it was accepted and the damage was caused by the packer during its period of use.

The CSC sticker must be checked immediately after the container arrives.
If the requirements are not met, this is a hard knockout criterion.

Screws on the locking linkage are another knockout feature. The fastening must be riveted diagonally at the top and bottom. The locking lever and the lifting latch must also be riveted.

The entire container must then be visually inspected. Check not only all sides from the outside, but also the bottom from below. Such damage should always be documented, especially as it can lead to problems when using dunnage bags . This is because the hard rust surface can lead to a loss of pressure in the airbag due to abrasion.

A container must also be checked for leaks . The best solution here is the two-man method. One climbs into the container, the other locks the door completely. Now it must be completely dark inside.

Diffuse light may penetrate through the pressure equalization openings in bright sunlight, but this is not critical. Otherwise, even the smallest leak would be recognizable by the incidence of light.

Damage to the door seals in particular can be detected in this way, e.g. if the door is warped and no longer closes correctly, even though the seal is in good condition.

Some shippers/packers also come up with unusual ideas and make the container suitable for their purposes.

Here, the load bars on the door were cut out and moved. This means that the container has been structurally modified.

The container must also be clean and odorless . If the container needs to be ventilated before loading, the time required for this should not be counted towards the loading time in consultation with the shipping company. The CTU Code provides information on this in various places, but particularly in point 12.1.6. Particular attention should be paid to indications as to whether a container was fumigated. This is because some packers do not comply with their labeling obligations in this regard.

Masked pressure equalization openings are a clear sign of fumigation. They are often sealed from the inside. Caution is therefore always advised.

The documentation

The aim must be to defend against claims for damages for defects that already existed.
Defects must therefore be recorded in a checklist and, if necessary, photographed. It may also make sense to consult with the shipping company or freight forwarder about how to proceed. After all, it is always cheaper than having to pay for expensive repairs afterwards due to a lack of evidence.

Yours, Sigurd Ehringer

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