The introduction of the standardized cargo freight container changed the shipping industry forever. From literally weeks to discharge and load a ship, cargo operations are now measured in hours. Moving tens of tons of cargo at a time is not without its hazards and drawbacks, however.
One of those drawbacks is when a container lift goes badly. Whether it is equipment failure or operator error, even the highly mechanized operations of loading and discharging containers can sometimes slow to a crawl or stop entirely awaiting the resolution of a problem.
Spreaders fail. Wires Fail. Load plans change. Human error rears it’s ugly head. Any of these or numerous other factors can make your day go bad very quickly. What happens next is often up to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of those involved. For those who have had containers hanging off spreaders, hatch covers fall in the hold or containers jammed in cell guides, you have an idea of what steps to take. For those who have never been in those situations, it may be time to play, “What if…?” with yourself and have a rough plan in mind.
The TT club looks at the specific problem of 20’ twin-lifts in their latest TT Talk. Take a look and think about the factors involved. Remember these safety ideas when working with containers :
[B]Do not walk under a suspended load.[/B] Ever. That hard hat [I]might[/I] save your life if a twistlock falls off a container, but will not save you if the container falls off the spreader.
On your ship, you are the expert. Yes, longshoremen conduct cargo operations every day, but they may not know the idiosyncracies of your vessel or may not be as concerned about damage to the vessel. If you have doubts, stop cargo operations until the situation can be clarified or resolved.
If any near misses occurred during cargo operations, make sure they are documented. By passing along the information, others may avoid the same situation.
Lets be safe out there.
[U]Additional Reading and Links
Captain Richard Madden is an actively sailing mariner with over 20 years of industry experience. He is focused on safe and secure operations throughout the maritime industry. Most recently, Captain Madden has gained extensive experience while operating in the Horn of Africa region on container vessels in the feeder trade. All opinions expressed within this article are his and his alone.