Ocean-bound container shipping must be, forgive the word, shipshape to get goods safely from their source to their final destination. McKinsey calls containers the pack mules of global commerce. Nobody will argue that in 2013 the pack mules are on the job as the majority of goods in containers complete their ocean journeys successfully intact. Otherwise, the industry would be in very big trouble. Supply-chain experts remind us about the bad old days of inefficiencies before containers were dramatically improved in quality and standardization. Standardizing on sizes meant that a far larger quantity of boxes could be more quickly moved.By driving costs down and the speed of international commerce up, the container shipping revolution has played a key part in the revolution of the global economy. Still, all is not perfect; incidents occur where containers will not arrive at their destinations intact, and some may get lost at sea. The incidents, though infrequent, are difficult for those affected, whether their hopes were in containers of flowers, clothing, or machine components. Knowing what can go wrong puts you that much more securely in the driver’s seat in operational planning.1. Bad Lashing
Ideally, cargo is properly placed in containers of standardized dimensions, placed one over the other and properly secured, using lashing. Trouble comes when the lashing is substandard. The ship’s balance and equilibrium bear the impact of improper lashing. Trouble in this category may mean that officers in charge of the ship down to those loading did not know the important points about safe container lashing. If the lashing was secured when the ship began to sail, the job is not done; the job remains to check the lashing, especially if the ship is about to enter rough seas.2. Dangerous Goods
Hazardous and dangerous cargo freight is specific kind of freight, because of its potential danger. Cargo containers carrying dangerous goods must be checked at regular time intervals, especially in bad weather. Leakages could occur.3. Damaged if Wet
All handlers preparing containers for shipping should learn how to prevent containers or packaging from getting damp and moldy. The very topic not only sounds unpleasant but represents substantial losses and costs. Ask any shipper who has experienced moisture damage and you will hear that the problem was too costly to want to ever repeat. Some of the telltale signs are peeling packaging; caking; visible mold growth; and metal and steel materials that appear corroded and have lost their shine. What can go wrong with dry cargo that must stay dry? There could have been condensation in the walls of the container or signs of “cargo sweat” on the cargo. Liners may have been able to protect the goods from water but not from humidity. Oils and film used may have contained water, releasing moisture. The vent holes in dry cargo possibly were not closed securely enough with tape. Packaging was dry but nobody bothered to see if the container floor and pallets were really dry too.4. Chemical Stress
Experts warn that even a few molecules of some chemicals, migrating through one package into another, could harm goods. It would be unfair though to demand loading personnel know everything about the effects of certain chemicals. Appropriate instructions issued from the senders to all parties involved can prevent damages.5. Bad Odors, Bad Perishables
The practice should be to never stow odor-releasing goods with goods that can absorb odors. (Ever try promoting baby lotion that smells of haddock?) High standards of packaging on all seafood shipments must be maintained. Leakage must be prevented at all times. For all perishables, best practices start before the products set sail. Shippers must take every step to maximize freshness and quality. Products should be delivered in insulated containers. Material held on the deck should be placed on pallets or base packed just as tightly as possible and covered with a tarpaulin to protect the cargo against the sun and wind. Dry ice, not wet ice, is used. Solid carbon dioxide, useful for pharmaceuticals, dangerous goods and foodstuffs, at about -80°C, can keep a shipment frozen over time.6. How Tight Is Tight?
Rain and spray should not affect containers but experts warn that attention should be paid to the bottom, the doors, and seals of containers.7. Last-Minute Acceptance of Cargo
Never a good idea. If a carrier accepts last-minute cargo while the vessel is in port and loading, there goes all the pre-planning on container planning. If those late arriving boxes are heavy and are placed on top of containers already in place, well, you get the picture. Stability and load pressures are thrown to the wind and stormy seas.8. Wrong Temperatures
Refrigerated containers are actually shipping containers that have been insulated and equipped with an electric cooling system. Some cargo may require very careful temperature controls. These containers can maintain temperatures below 0°F and up to 75°F depending on the product requirements. As the wrong settings can damage goods that need careful refrigeration, temperatures should be checked for proper settings and also carefully monitored.