The CSC Plate
During the 1960s, there was a marked increase in the use of freight containers for the consignment of goods by sea. As such, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) undertook a study of the safety of containerisation in marine transport. The container itself emerged as the most important safety consideration.
In 1972, a finalised Convention was adopted at a conference jointly convened by the United Nations and the IMO. The International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) emerged with two important goals. The first being to maintain a high level of safety of human life in the transport and handling of containers. The second being to facilitate the international transport of containers by providing uniform international safety regulations. Countries that adhere to the CSC regulations are known as Contracting Parties and their adoption of the regulations means that containers can be used worldwide, under this single set of CSC safety statutes.
What is the CSC plate?
As a consequence of the CSC regulations, any container used for international transport must be fitted with a valid safety approval plate. The approval process includes testing, inspection and maintenance of containers in accordance with the CSC regulations. The container CSC plate is fastened to every shipping container at the time of manufacture and is typically bolted to the outside of the container, on the left door.
Each CSC plate must contain a certain level of information, in either English or French. The words “CSC SAFETY APPROVAL” are prominent on the plate, along with the country of approval and the approval reference.
Furthermore, the date of container manufacture, specifically the month and year, must be evident. As must the manufacturer’s container identification number or, in the case of an existing container without a number, the subsequent number allotted by the Administration. The container’s maximum weight-carrying capability in both kilograms and lbs must be inscribed, along with the racking test load value.
Some additional information may also be included on the container CSC plate, such as the owner of the shipping container and their contact information. The timber treatment information that’s applied to the wood flooring of the container may also be included, along with the date the container is first due for an inspection.
CSC approval means that an Administration has deemed a design type or a container to be safe under the terms of the current Convention. From manufactured or existing containers to new design types, those that are approved are marked with the metal “CSC SAFETY APPROVAL” plate.
Containers can be inspected periodically or by means of an Approved Continuous Examination Programme (ACEP). Periodic inspection usually applies to small fleets or single units. Meeting the maximum 30 month programme of periodic inspection is more manageable for smaller set-ups.An ACEP usually applies to large shipping lines. In some cases, shipping lines may have to manage several thousand containers in service at any one time. Whether loaded, empty, inland or on ship, adhering to the 30 month periodic inspection of all their containers would prove practically impossible.
An ACEP usually applies to large shipping lines. In some cases, shipping lines may have to manage several thousand containers in service at any one time. Whether loaded, empty, inland or on ship, adhering to the 30 month periodic inspection of all their containers would prove practically impossible.
When adhering to an ACEP, registered Contracting Parties must use recognised depots with approved inspectors when resituating their containers in land-based depots. The containers can then be inspected between uses and included in the ACEP. These containers are identified by an ACEP registration number which is on the CSC plate. This number cannot be transferred from a shipping line to a private individual. If a container is purchased, it needs to be surveyed and an accompanying certificate supplied, deeming it safe for use and fit for purpose.
The importance of CSC plates and container inspection
Irrespective of the inspection system followed, the CSC plate is only valid if the container is in good order. If it is damaged during service and is no longer safe to use, the owner must act accordingly. Any authorised agent can take the container out of service if it is deemed to be damaged to a dangerous level. Furthermore, if a defective container causes damage or injury, its owner will have to prove that every precaution to prevent such an incident had been taken. It is an offence to knowingly use a defective container or one without a CSC plate for cargo carrying purposes. While new containers are given 5 years’ grace prior to requiring inspection, this does not negate the need to maintain them in sound and safe condition.
Furthermore, if a defective container causes damage or injury, its owner will have to prove that every precaution to prevent such an incident had been taken. It is an offence to knowingly use a defective container or one without a CSC plate for cargo carrying purposes. While new containers are given 5 years’ grace prior to requiring inspection, this does not negate the need to maintain them in sound and safe condition.
To avoid damage in transit, containers should be properly inspected before and after packing. Whether hard or open-top, there should be no holes or cracks in the roof or walls of the container. Tarpaulins and ropes should be undamaged, complete and correctly fitted. Doors and closing devices should operate properly and there should be no labels or placards pertaining to previous cargos. Prior to packing, the inside of the container should be watertight, dry and clean. There should also be no nails or other protrusions that could potentially damage the cargo.
It is equally important to check that the container has been packed appropriately and a packing list has been provided. Doors and roof coverings should be carefully closed and secured to reduce the risk of theft.
While it’s in the interest of a shipping line to take care of its cargo, it’s important to note that the CSC was not introduced for the safety of the cargo, but rather for the safety of the persons working around the containers. The CSC, embodied by the container plate, made the approval of new containers mandatory and was a welcome means of regulating the construction and safety of containers.
This page is a part of our container information series. For more details and links to other pages, please see the container information page. For more information on the CSC Plate, please refer to the CSC plate page on the container markings section of bic-code.org.