The ultimate goal is to minimise the number of injuries or deaths resulting from cargo-related accidents, plus reduce the amount of freight lost or damaged, while also addressing environmental concerns.
Behind several projects now being developed is the acceptance that common standards on cargo handling are necessary, and that safety, security, health and environmental matters should not be regarded as competitive issues.
“There is an enormous leverage effect from working together,” says Dirk Vande Velde, corporate manager for MSC Chemical Transports and one of the driving forces behind the array of ideas now being pursued.
Rather than take action in response to incidents, or wait for P&I advisory circulars to be distributed, those involved in the various projects want to see far more proactive steps taken to prevent accidents in the first place.
That means co-operating in areas where there should be no commercial element, while also bringing in scientists and other experts for their professional analytical skills and advice on, for example, on the best way to reduce cargo-related pollution.
Momentum has been gathering since a group of carriers, led by Mediterranean Shipping Co and Maersk Line, launched the Cargo Incident Notification System last year. Lines are building a database documenting incidents in 0rder to determine any patterns or particular high-risk cargo types.
Rapid alerts can be sent out in an emergency, while the network also enables members to exchange information on best practice container handling.
From an initial five founders, the Cins organisation now has 24 members, according to Mr Vande Velde, the group’s chairman and also director of environmental and social business affairs for MSC. More are expected to join soon.
Also working with Cins members are the mutual insurer TT Club, and the International Group of P&I Clubs.
Since its launch 18 months ago, Cins has made considerable progress , with one decision being better communications between carriers that are members of vessel-sharing agreements. Another was agreement on the distribution of warnings about counterfeit pesticides.
The group was also active last year, following the meltdown of a nuclear reactor in Japan after the tsunami, implementing safety procedures in order to avoid radioactive contamination of containers and cargo.
In an update on Cins and the network that has been established, Mr Vande Velde says members have also found that using a common database and standards can save plenty of money.
Cins now has one year’s worth of information and data available that has been analysed, enabling safety steps to be taken where necessary.
Since its inception, Cins has made it clear it is acutely aware of antitrust law, and has built systems that ensure no commercially sensitive information is ever exchanged.
Cins members decided recently they wanted to restrict the network to container lines only. But with interest in broadening the concept to other parts of the supply chain, work is already well advanced on a separate Sustainable Ports and Shipping Network.
This network will enable information related to dangerous or potentially hazardous materials to be even more widely shared by all those involved in handling or transporting containers, both at sea and ashore.
It aims to bring together owners and operators, port authorities, terminals, cargo interests, flag states, classification societies and other stakeholders.
Initial modules include a safety toolbox on standardised emergency response systems, and an eco ship and port toolbox that will collect data and offer solutions on how to reduce energy use and emissions from logistics activities.