BG Verkehr / Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg

Andreas Herold
Phone: +49 40 36137-258
Fax: +49 40 36137-204

Securing Cargo (CSS)

Containers lost overboard

During a storm in the North Sea at the beginning of 2019, more than 300 containers on board the large container vessel "MSC Zoe" tore free and were lost overboard. Even months later, cargo from the lost containers washed ashore the Dutch and German coast. Fishermen complained about the garbage in their nets which had gotten into the North Sea from the contents of the burst containers. It is questionable whether all of the cargo lost overboard can ever be recovered.

How could this happen? The precise causes of the accident are not yet known but it has already become clear how important it is to secure the cargo on board seagoing ships in the right way.

Shifted containers on "MSC Zoe" © BG Verkehr

CSS Code ensures safety

Securing cargo the right way has always been an issue in maritime shipping. While it was mostly part of the handed-down knowledge of "good seamanship", nowadays, there are defined rules for the stowage and securing of cargo on board seagoing vessels. The key regulatory instrument for securing cargo is the Code of Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing", in short CSS Code, which the International Maritime Organization IMO adopted in 1991.

The CSS Code contains seven chapters with all relevant information about securing cargo. The Code differentiates between standardized stowing and securing systems (e.g. containers) and semi- or non-standardized stowage and securing (e.g. motor vehicles on ro-ro ships). In 14 annexes, the CSS Code provides specific requirements for different kinds of cargo, e.g. project cargo, logs, rolling cargoes. Of special importance are annex 13 (non-standardized cargo) and annex 14 (containers).

For sea-going vessels carrying other cargo than solid and liquid bulk cargoes, a Cargo Securing Manual has to be prepared in accordance with SOLAS regulations VI/5 and VII/5. This Cargo Securing Manual gets approved by the Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr. The IMO published guidelines which follow the CSS Code aiding with the preparation of the manual.