New North American sanitation rules for containers could go global

November 29, 2017

Inspections of shipping containers in North America to become more rigorous. Credit: getty Images


A North American initiative to ensure invasive species aren’t spread on or in maritime shipping containers means container lines have to be vigilant in inspecting the boxes, according to the President of the Shipping Federation of Canada (ShipFed).


The initiative was launched by the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and is expected to gain global acceptance.


Michael Broad said the best practices outlined in the initiative had mainly fallen on shippers but that carriers also had a clear role in making sure that no empty container returned to a terminal had any packing or extraneous material inside it. He added that there should be no growths or build-up of dirt on the interior or exterior of the box. “If there is, send it back to the customer for cleaning.”


APHIS and CFIS have jointly released the guidance on practices to ensure sea container cleanliness after consultations with shippers, carriers, and supply chain partners that were launched in 2016. The idea is for the industry to adopt the best practices voluntarily rather than have then imposed on them by regulation.


Bob Ballantyne, President of the Freight Management Association of Canada, said that for now the result of this would be reduced chances of shipments being held up at ports of entry or other inspection points, while inspectors would ensure that the containers were not contaminated with invasive species.


He stated that inspections of containers would become “a lot more rigorous to prevent the spread of invasive species”, adding that they would “focus on what’s on and inside the containers”.


The participants in the consultations included FMA representing the Global Shippers’ Forum, the US National Industrial Transportation League, and the World Shipping Council.

A precedent for the voluntary compliance with the cleanliness regulations can be found in industry co-operation to meet standards on the guidance of safe loading of containers, ensuring that they aren’t top-heavy, putting them at risk of falling over, or in danger of having goods fall out when being opened.


The International Maritime Organization supported that initiative and is expected to do the same with the sea container cleanliness initiative, Ballantyne said. “North American shippers exporting products in containers should also begin following the recommended practices.”


The guidance document says, “Invasive pests hitchhike around the globe in and on the agricultural products we import. They also travel on and in the millions of rail wagons, trailers and sea cargo containers that crisscross our oceans and continents on trains, trucks and ships. Once introduced, invasive pests are very difficult and expensive to control or eradicate. They can severely damage agricultural production, affect property values, and reduce water availability and quality. The total cost of lost revenue and clean-up can run into billions of dollars.”


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