| Written by Mark Buzinkay
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Container terminals operate on a 24/7 basis, so the demand for availability is exceptionally high (read more about container terminal planning). In addition, container terminals are inherently associated with a potential safety risk, with vehicles and heavy equipment operating close and under time constraints. Collisions are not only dangerous but also associated with high damage claims.
Damaged containers can pose significant challenges to container terminal operations, impacting the shipment process's safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Accuracy and efficiency are vital in container terminal operations, and any type of issue with cargo can impact the smooth running of the entire process.
The Impact of Damaged Containers
A damaged container can affect every stakeholder in the supply chain, from manufacturers and shippers to port authorities and terminal operators. When goods are damaged during transit, it can lead to substantial financial losses for manufacturers and shippers.
According to Container xChange, even small damage to a container can cause a 2-5% reduction in its value, resulting in a significant loss for the owner. Furthermore, damaged containers can also affect the safety of workers within the terminal and during transit, leading to the possibility of injury or even death.
The Need for Safety
Safety is a top priority for container terminal operations. Containers are often stacked up to six high, and if there is any damage to the container, this can lead to a potential collapse, causing injury and damage to the cargo. Therefore, the safe handling of containers during terminal operations is paramount to ensure that everyone involved in the process is safe.
The Challenge of Reporting
Another challenge of damaged containers in terminal operations is the process of reporting. Operators often battle with identifying and reporting damaged containers, leading to missed opportunities for repair and maintenance. Experts state that container damage can often go unnoticed due to inadequate or unreported container damage claims. With inaccurate or ineffective reporting processes, the damaged containers can remain active in the supply chain, leading to increased risks and costs down the line.
Sustainability is another issue with damaged containers in terminal operations. Damaged containers can help to identify the root cause for the damage, and, therefore, help to improve the safety of operations. Every damaged container is causing unnecessary resource waste. If a damaged container cannot be repaired, it is often disposed of, adding to the waste generated by the shipping industry. To maintain sustainable and environmentally conscious operations, avoiding incidents that lead to damaged containers is essential to reduce waste and minimize the overall carbon footprint of the container terminal operations.
As the terminal is obligated to keep the cargo under their care in the same good order and condition in which it was in upon receiving, they are aware of the potential costs inflicted by damaged goods. Damaged containers are unseaworthy and must be repaired, and damaged goods must be replaced or paid for.
As we all strive for a safe workplace and environment. We apply rules, standards, and processes to improve and establish a safety culture to raise awareness and eliminate sources of incidents.
Unfortunately, many container terminals still suffer from damaged containers and assets. It makes it worse when the damage is unreported – sometimes, there are dangerous situations with a lucky end, most of the time. Eventually, it will disrupt container terminal operations because unreported damages will materialise when you least expect them: A machine's sudden breakdown, an unseaworthy container, a broken power cable to a reefer – incidents of potentially significant effects for the operations planner and the ship's schedule.
One reason for sudden disruptions is unreported incidents. In this article, we are not discussing why the workforce or parts of it won't report damages; on the contrary, we are looking into ways to learn about unreported damages, investigate raised claims, and contain the damage before it worsens. In addition, we want to raise awareness that drivers must report every incident.
With Terminal Tracker, sudden disruptions can be avoided. Here is how…
When it comes to container terminal operations, damaged containers are a significant concern, and there are several causes for damage. Here are some common causes of damaged containers in ports:
Improper loading and unloading
One of the most common causes of container damage is improper loading and unloading. Containers may be mishandled during the process, causing damage to the container's structure and its contents. Improper loading can include overloading the container, uneven weight distribution, and incorrect stacking.
Truck drivers often work long hours, leading to fatigue-induced accidents. In addition, drivers in terminal yards must navigate through tight spaces and other traffic, making it difficult for drivers to see pedestrians, other vehicles, or obstacles in their path. This can result in collisions.
Natural disasters and bad weather
Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis can pose a significant threat to container terminals and cause significant damage to containers. Harsh weather conditions, such as storms and strong winds, can also cause damage to containers during transit and in port.
Wear and tear, manufacturing defects
Containers have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years and are exposed to long periods of heavy use and harsh conditions, resulting in wear and tear over time. This can include damages to the container's structure, such as dents, scratches, and rust.
Containers are created in large batches, making them susceptible to defects such as weak welds, punctures, and cracks that may compromise the container's integrity.
Poor maintenance and lack of regular inspections of the containers can also lead to damage. A lack of maintenance can cause the container to deteriorate and weaken, making it more susceptible to damage during transit.
Tracking unreported damages can be pretty challenging; reviewing, collecting, and analysing historical data from various sources is labour-intensive, time-consuming - and prone to errors. Often made impossible due to the lack of available and accurate data (learn more about container yard operations here).
To investigate unreported damages, you need objective, rich data. With a solution like Terminal Tracker that interacts with your TOS, you get the following:
Hassle-free drivers' access: Driver's credentials are stored and accessible 100% of the time to ensure only authorised personnel access equipment. There are no delays with logging in or out.
Driver identification: Drivers are automatically logged in/out and reported to the Terminal Operating System. Therefore, you have 100% traceability, increased responsibility, and accountability.
Shock detection: A shock detection device is mounted on each vehicle and will produce immediate feedback in response to excessive driving behaviours such as harsh acceleration, sudden braking, fast cornering or a potential collision.
Historical data: Historical data such as location, shock measurements, machine, driver's name, time are all available on a historical map. This makes it easier to track and identify damages within a minute.
Education: When it comes to workforce education, the best programs have real-life examples. It is imperative to share accurate and easily understandable data with your workforce. Instead of long boring presentations, it is much more valuable to create an environment where you can discuss specific topics that impact their work-life and safety with the crew.
For example, showing the data of "shock alarms/events" to the drivers and discussing the root cause of dangerous events has a way greater impact on their working behaviour than punishing them without explanation. Often, the operator might not even be aware of the danger they put themselves in, and articulate phrases like "We have always done it this way…", "I didn't realise…" or "No one ever told me this…". This is a golden opportunity to educate with data.
The employees must be given a chance to contribute to the cause by accepting responsibility and accountability for their actions. This can only be achieved if treated with trust and respect. Accurate data gives us credibility and makes it easier to initiate changes.
By involving your employees in health and safety briefings and discussions, you will be ensuring their wellbeing and the functioning of your organisation. Still, you will also be saving a lot of money in the process. This is because unreported damages will decrease with time.
The efficiency of terminal operations depends on whether supply and demand can be adequately planned and handled (learn more about challenges of port automation). A big part of this process is asset management and scheduling. It relays on accurate and up to date information on all your assets. This can be almost impossible if unscheduled breakdowns or damages get out of control.
If you want to learn how to get rid of unreported damages, find out more about the capabilities of Terminal Tracker' Shock Management module. Turn data into insights and optimize your container terminal to its fullest potential - with Terminal Tracker.
- What are the consequences of damaged containers in ports?
The problems caused by damaged containers can have a ripple effect on the companies that use the ports and the supply chain, including:
- How are port authorities affected by damaged containers?
Damaged containers create various problems for port authorities, including:
Research our extensive resources about port automation here...