Inspections lead to better-secured loads

Too few lashing straps. Wrong lashing techniques. Too much free space between cargo and front wall. Hardly any of the trucks coming off the Polish ro-pax ferry pass the inspection without any criticism.
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Too few lashing straps. Wrong lashing techniques. Too much free space between cargo and front wall. Hardly any of the trucks coming off the Polish ro-pax ferry pass the inspection without any criticism.

Inspection of load securing
Inspection of load securing in Nynäs. Photo: Linda Sundgren

– Terrible, mutters police inspector Börje Laurin as he walks around the badly lashed metal sheets inside the truck.
He pulls on the slack lashing straps and then walks to the front, stating that there is at least 60 to 70 cm between the metal sheet and the front wall. The empty space in front of more than 20 tons of cargo is far too large, and if the metal starts moving it could have drastic consequences. Björn Laurin climbs down from the trailer and out onto the grey, cloudy and windy quayside in Nynäshamn.
While the sullen-looking driver quickly closes the trailer, the Swedish policemen (who are responsible for checking how loads are lashed on our main roads) explain what needs to be done before he is allowed to continue onto the roads.
– We do not have the right to hand out fines for bad lashing in the harbour area. The punishment, you could say, is that they have to improve the lashing before they can set off, and that takes time, says Börje Laurin.
The column of trucks moves slowly over the ramp of the Bahamas-flagged ”Baltivias”. Now and then the trucks stop when one of the drivers has his breath checked, or there is a spot check on suspicious loads. Before arrival the shipping companies send out lists of load information to the authorities. The list states what each trailer contains and its weight. A first selection is made of which vehicles will be taken in for a more thorough inspection on the basis of these lists. According to the lists Börje Laurin is holding in his hand, there are 36 trailers on the ferry and he hopes they will have time to inspect as many as half of them.
– We are particularly interested in those coming in with building materials or steel and sheet metal weighing over 25 tons. But if we see anything suspicious, such as parts of load sticking out from under the tarpaulin, we take those in too. There are usually two or three of those on every ship.
Major inspections with five authorities
At today’s load inspections with joint operations, representatives from the Customs, Coastguard, Swedish Maritime Administration, Work Environment Agency and Police all take part, and the quayside is full of warmly-clothed officials from the different authorities in fluorescent yellow vests. Major joint inspections like this are carried out about five times every six months in harbours in Stockholm County; smaller, spot checks take place about twice a month.
”Baltivia” is in regular traffic between Sweden and Poland and moors in Nynäshamn every other day. Traffic from Poland often has problems with loads, explains Bo Johansson from the Coastguard, which is the authority responsible for inspecting loads onboard ships.
– They often use very poor, worn lashing straps. It is also quite common that they use the wrong type of load carrier, such as a trailer that is not intended for the load being carried, he says.
– For a time we picked out Polish traffic and it gave results. When we started, about 75% of the vehicles were found to be faulty and after a couple of months that figure was down to 25%. But it is still far from satisfactory, and it is not only goods from Poland that are poorly secured.
Bo Johansson explains that Sweden, together with Finland, Germany and the Baltic states, is participating in an EU project to increase safety at sea through better lashing. The project has continued for two years and will be completed at the end of the year.
– Load inspections on the other side of the Baltic are almost non-existent and there is a lot that needs to be improved over there. The project has given us contacts in the authorities in the other countries involved, and now we know whom to turn to when we have problems.
”In Poland this is OK”
The inspectors on the quayside have split up into two groups. One group is next to the ramp and carries out checks for drink drivers and has a first look at the load. The other group is further down the quay and waves in trucks and trailers that need to be checked more thoroughly.
A truck with a blue tarpaulin has just been stopped. Farthest to the rear there are piles of closely packed, rectangular boxes that contain glass, according to the list of loads. But what has aroused the interest of the police in this particular vehicle are the 12 tons of reinforcing steel mats that are also on the list.
The driver lifts up the tarpaulin at the front of the trailer to reveal piles of reinforcing steel mats several metres high. The police immediately look at the free space between the goods and the front wall. One of them takes out a measuring tape and measures the gap.
– 60 centimetres, he states and puts the measuring tape in his pocket. It is far too much.
They look more closely at the lashing straps. They are properly tightened but there are too few of them, and the Polish driver, Maciej Minta, is ordered to put four more in place.
– In Poland this is OK, he says in broken English, and points to the lashing.
But his argument cuts no ice with the inspectors and even though he has problems with the language he understands what needs to be done.
– It’s no problem. This is important, he says and starts to make the lashing better.
Mikael Roos from Work Environment Agency appears between two vehicles. He put his hand into the black briefcase to hand back a certificate to one of the drivers. Mikael Roos has worked with securing loads for many years and in his opinion it is primarily ignorance that leads to poor lashing.
– A common mistake is that people think lashing straps are far stronger than they are in reality. Many people also believe that the load will stay still without any aids because it is so heavy, he says.
Drivers bear responsibility
No matter who has lashed the load, it is the driver who bears responsibility for how the goods are secured in the truck. And Mikael Roos tells us that he has had many discussions with drivers about securing loads over the years.
– Some are really interested and want to learn, while others don’t care at all. One problem is the language. Some of them know so little English that they hardly understand what we’re saying, but we usually have an interpreter with us, he says.
Patrik Granstam and Caroline Petrini, who both worked with load securing issues at the Swedish Maritime Administration, are also on the quayside in Nynäshamn.
– This is the first time I have been involved in an inspection and it actually looks better than I had expected, says Patrik Granstam. Certainly there are criticisms to be made, but I thought it would be even worse.
Caroline Petrini has a notebook in her hand and the two of them count how many lashing devices were missing when they inspected the vehicles.
– Only 60% had enough lashing eyes. Of course that is not good, but the result is not entirely unexpected, says Patrik Granstam.
Linda Sundgren

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