Blog September 20, 2016

A welcome outbreak of harmony

By Nicola Byers

After a summer of increasingly polarised political arguments in Europe and the US, those in the shipping industry who were lucky enough to get away to the beach have returned to some positive news – interchange inspection criteria have finally been harmonised.

To be exact, the two different inspection standards – the IICL-5, managed by the Institute of Container Lessors (IICL), and the Common Interchange Criteria (CIC) managed by the CIC Group of companies – have merged into one standard – IICL-6.

A press release from the Container Owners Association, which supported CIC, states that the move will offer “more consistent and accurate equipment inspections and repair estimates” and “create a better path to more accurate estimates, less disputes and more trained professional inspectors”.

The announcement from IICL is a bit more low key, but still claims that the new standard will offer “simplification and efficiency improvement of procedures for container inspections” and that the increased efficiency “will be a tremendous benefit for container operations, inspection and repair throughout our industry”.

The new standard came into effect from August 1. Those who are more familiar with the IICL rules, can see the changes to that standard in this technical bulletin while those more familiar with the CIC can find an update here.

How did we get here? The split began in August 2007, when CIC launched as an alternative to the IICL-5 criteria. The CIC group of leasing companies ultimately consisted of Triton Container, Seaco, Florens Container Services, CAI and Blue Sky Intermodal. The aim was to reduce repair costs by eliminating unnecessary repair to containers – a further benefit claimed was that the standard was more environmentally friendly as it reduced container handling.

The complexity of having two different on/off hire container standards was difficult for lessees and depots and created unnecessary confusion and extra costs. Having one standard for this stage can only be a good thing, though it is worth noting that this unified inspection standard does not replace UCIRC as the shipping lines’ in service inspection standard. IICL-6 is only used when leased containers are on-hired and off-hired.

Rather than wonder why it took the operators of these standards so long to harmonise or why there needed to be a split in the first place, this feels like a good time to praise an initiative that marks an important step forward for the industry. While it may sometimes (well…often) seem like the world is going to hell in a handcart, at least in the small corner of it that is the container shipping business, life has got a little bit easier. In other news, it looks like the SOLAS verified gross mass rules have come into force without the world ending. If that continues, then things really will be looking up!