The biggest containerships are now worth about USD 150 million as they emerge from the shipyard, while it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that on a fully laden voyage they might be carrying up to USD 1 billion’s worth of cargo.

A great deal of that cargo is carried on deck, up to 9 or 10 high containers, which is about the limit that container strength will support. But lashing technologies have barely changed since the first or second generation containerships, which probably carried the majority of their cargo underdeck, with boxes stowed no more than two or three high on deck.

Lloyd’s Register’s containership expert David Tozer, speaking recently in London, suggested that it was high time more thought was given to the development of a better system of lashing containers on deck. Present lashing technologies, he said, were “lousy”. Like many areas, it may be that the lashing systems for cargo have simply been overtaken by the extrapolation of containership sizes, with a great amount of attention paid to the speedy handling of cargo in the terminals, but with a residual dependence on traditional systems of cargo securing, using heavy rods and cargo turnbuckles, along with twistlocks.

Lashing bridges may have been extended in height, but terminals do not like them too high on the grounds that they slow the cranes, so lashing gangs, and indeed ship’s crew, are required to work at greater heights than ever before. Mr. Tozer noted that 50 people have died in lashing accidents, while very more have been injured.

Problems with lashing cause delays and disputes in port. The International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA) Journal illustrates, in its current issue, complaints from terminals and stevedoring companies in which ships were arriving at their terminal with the lashing bridges and crossways between container stacks dangerously congested, with lashing bars just strewn about from a previous port. ICHCA suggests that time pressures, with tight schedules and with ships required to sail just as soon as cargo has finished, and small crews which find it difficult to cope, all contribute to some of these problems. Others suggest that poor ship design, with insufficient room between the stacks, are also responsible. It is pointed out that the new Annex 14 of the Cargo Stowage and Securing Code will require lashing bar trays or racks to be conveniently positioned close to where they are needed.

But there is still this overarching problem of manually handling heavy steel bars, at considerable heights, to secure containers ready for sea and to remove them before the discharge can commence. Twistlock design might have been improved, but there remains the residual problem of binding the components of a stack together, in a class of ship which often suffers from an excess of stability and is prone to roll in heavy weather. One might suggest that this is a problem which equipment designers ought to be seriously considering, with some radical new solution which would both eliminate risk and remove possibly the last productivity handicap aboard these amazingly productive ships.

Author: The Watchkeeper                                          Source: BIMCO.