Container shipping, in the view of several recent authors, has changed the world.
Those standard-sized boxes you glimpse on the back of trucks and trains, on their way from ports to distribution centres and thence to wholesalers and retailers; they really make the world go round.
The bulk of imported consumer goods travel across borders in such containers.
Yet those containers themselves pose a hazard to the workers who deal with them, transporting your goods more than 90% of the distance from factory to store shelf.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has been pushing for stronger container safety standards since 1994.
How can you go wrong with a rectangular box? Several ways. Don’t forget they are huge and their contents can weigh many tonnes. The most common issues are that goods are unsafely loaded: either loaded too heavily, or off-centre, or in such a manner that the contents shift during transit.
The ITF and its affiliates are pushing for, at a minimum, the weight, dangerousness, and lashing arrangements of contents to be passed from port terminals on to transport companies.
Standards depend on national laws and some are better than others. Lack of load information is a problem especially in Japan, where road laws automatically attribute blame to trucking companies, who were not responsible for packing the container and who have no business in opening it. It’s a case of ‘shoot the messenger’. The local affiliate, ZENKOKU-KOWAN, has pressed the issue with the Japanese government. Meanwhile the ITF continues to push for global standards, presenting its case at a meeting of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) just two months ago.
Slow progress! It sounds a bit like turning a … no, never mind…
- What’s in the box? (and who needs to know?) Transport International, October 2004