Shipping Container Standards
ACEP – Approved Continuous Examination Program
This inspection program is implemented by container owners to monitor the health and condition of their shipping containers. While the container is being monitored by ACEP, the CSC does not need to be checked again. However, the CSC plate is only valid if the container is in good order.
CSC – International Convention for Safe Containers (safety approval plates)
In 1972, a convention for container safety was adopted at a conference jointly convened by the United Nations and the International Maritime Organisation. The Container Safety Convention requires that shipping containers used for international voyage must be fitted with valid safety approval plates (CSC plate). The CSC aims to:
- To maintain a high level of safety of human life in the transport and handling of shipping containers.
- To facilitate the international transport of containers by providing standardised international safety regulations.
The CSC establishes the owner’s responsibility for maintaining the container in safe condition and for periodic inspection. Approvals are accepted by all other contracting parties and once approved containers can be moved internationally with the minimum of safety control formalities.
CSC plates must contain specific information, displayed in either English or French. ‘CSC SAFETY APPROVAL’ must be prominent on the plate, along with the country of approval and approval reference. Other mandatory information to be included is:
- The month and year of container manufacture
- The manufacturer’s container identification number or, if the container has no manufacturer number, the Container Operator’s operational number (BIC code).
- Maximum weight-carrying capability (usually referred to as payload or max net mass) in kilograms and pounds
- Stacking and racking test load value.
CW – cargo worthy
The Container Owners Association’s (COA) criteria for cargo worthy (CW) means shipping containers must pass meticulous inspections before being certified as worthy for the carriage of cargo in accordance with TIR, UIC and CSC. A decent CW unit must carry a valid CSC plate. CW shipping containers are certified as wind and watertight, will have signs of usage on the interior and exterior surfaces and the overall visual impression will be adequate.
IICL – Institute of International Container Lessors
This is the main association of the marine container leasing industry. IICL is the industry benchmark and all repairs to used shipping containers are carried out based on those standards. IICL containers are certified as wind and watertight, will show signs of use on interior and exterior surfaces but have a good visual appearance overall.
ISO – International Organization for Standardization
The ISO promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards, including those governing the construction of shipping containers. ISO or intermodal containers are used for the intermodal transport of freight. They are manufactured according to ISO standards and are suitable for multiple transportation methods be it truck, rail, or ship.
These regulations define that a shipping container meets specific requirements regarding size, strength and durability. The basis of these regulations is to guarantee that the container can withstand extreme environments endured during transport with the structural integrity needed when lifted by cranes or other heavy equipment.
TIR – Transports Internationaux Routiers (International Road Transport)
TIR enables goods to be shipped from a country of origin to a country of destination via transit countries in sealed load compartments that are controlled by customs according to a multilateral, mutually recognised system. It is the easiest, safest and most reliable way to move goods across multiple international borders, saving time and money for transport operators and customs authorities.
Set up in 1948 by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the aim of the system was to breathe new life into the war-torn trade and commercial links across Europe by facilitating transit of people and goods. To that effect, it formed an alliance of national passenger and freight road transport associations from eight European countries, which ensured the industry’s representation at the then newly created United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, tasked with putting in place the legal frameworks for a new post-war Europe. Today, trucks operating under a TIR carnet use one single international guarantee from a journey’s start to finish – even for intermodal transports. It is an easy, secure and reliable way to move goods across borders, be it straightforward bilateral transports between neighbouring countries or more complex multi-border journeys.
UIC – Union International des Chemins de Fer (International Union of Railways).
Containers must meet UIC requirements in order to transport goods on the rail. The idea of creating an international organisation, bringing together the railway companies, was developed in the wake of the international conference of Portorosa in Italy on 23 November 1921, followed by the international conference of Geneva on 3 May 1922. State representatives favoured the “creation of a permanent rail administration focusing on international traffic for the standardization and improvement of conditions of railway construction and operations“. The international conference founding UIC was held in Paris on 17 October 1922.
Initially, the UIC had 51 members from 29 countries, including Japan and China, which were soon joined by the railways from the USSR, the Middle East and North Africa.
UIC’s mission is to:
- Promote rail transport globally with the objective of responding effectively to current and future challenges relating to mobility and sustainable development
- Develop and facilitate all forms of international cooperation among members and promote sharing of best practice
- Promote interoperability and develop and publish solutions to railway-system-related issues (IRSs)
- Support members in their efforts to develop new business and areas of activity
- Propose new ways to improve the technical and environmental performance of rail transport, increase competitiveness and reduce costs.
WWT – wind and watertight
Shipping containers are certified as WWT provided wind and water cannot access the interior. The container should be completely sealed with no light entering through the doors and roof. WWT containers do not automatically mean they are cargo worthy unless there is a valid CSC plate in place. A WWT container with a valid CSC plate means the container is cargo worthy. WWT containers generally have a less appealing visual impression than IICL or CW containers.