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Safe Container Loading

Containers carried by rail need to be “safe”. What does “safe” mean in terms of railway transit?

Weight – the gross weight of the container must not be greater than that stated on the Freight Arranger booking.

Balance – the freight inside the container must be stowed so that the weight is evenly distributed over the length and width of the container.

Secure Stowage – the goods inside the container must be held in place using for example the internal lashing points so that the goods do not move during transit and the container remains balanced.

Dangerous Goods – contents which are classified as Dangerous Goods must be declared as such and the UN code entered on the Freight Arranger booking.

More detailed guidance can be obtained from the International Maritime Organisation at DSC 18/8.

The reason for the rules on container weight is that railway wagons and the cranes which load them are subject to safe working loads which can be exceeded if the container is heavier than declared on the Freight Arranger booking.

The reason for the rules on balance and stowing goods so that they cannot move in transit is that railway vehicles are sprung and uneven loads cause the wagon to tilt sideways, or fore and aft, or both. There are potentially serious consequences of the wagon tilting: sideways tilt can bring the container into contact with railway structures such as arched bridges; fore and aft tilt can cause the buffers to under or over-ride the buffers on the next wagon leading to derailment.

These rules are similar to those which apply to the loading of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) where the load is required to be balanced and secured against movement in transit.

Freight Arranger will reject any containers which have been filled by vertical loading as there is too high a risk of the contents not being spread across the container floor and remaining weighted at one end of the container, leading to severe imbalance and a risk of a railway accident.

Freight Arranger is unable to open containers to check or inspect the containers prior to transit, so the responsibility for safe loading and reporting of gross weight rests with you, the consignor.

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