Blog October 9, 2012

Tank Container Repairs – is it time to speak a common language?

By Nicola Byers

Back in the late 1980s, the ISO CEDEX (Container Equipment Data Exchange) codes were established as a common electronic language for container operators, lessors, surveyors and depots. The launch of CEDEX created a universal ‘dictionary’ to translate different items on a repair estimate, as well as the movement of equipment into and out of depots, into a universal format. This enabled data to be transferred by Electronic Data Interchange (“EDI”) between the different parties and their various software applications.

Would a common approach to repair estimate coding bring benefits to the tank container industry as it has already done for the dry freight sector? What are the reasons for this not yet happening? Intermodal Eye investigates.

So why adopt a common code for tank repairs?

  1. Universal coding will help to automate the transfer and authorisation of repair estimates, reducing both the duplication of data entry and human errors.
  2. Codes will help tank owners to improve their control and understanding of estimate pricing.
  3. The need for bespoke EDI message formats with all relevant systems will be avoided.
  4. Common coding will help tank owners to get more from a Maintenance & Repair system, such as the average cost of similar repairs and which depots are the most cost effective.
  5. Codes help to determine who is responsible for repair costs when it comes to leased units.
  6. Depots can remove the cost of entering data into both their own systems and their customers.

What are the reasons it hasn’t been adopted?

  1. Tank containers have a greater complexity than dry freight boxes. Valves have a large number of replaceable components which would all have to be given a unique character or numerical reference.
  2. Some common practices such as the ‘clock face’ diagram to indicate location and type of damage on dished ends may not work alongside a universal code.
  3. Higher margins in the tank sector have not forced the issue of universal coding like in the dry freight sector.
  4. Large tank operators and lessors have adopted their own dedicated systems and may be less keen to move to a universal coding system.
  5. The complexity of tank repairs could cause numerical codes to be misinterpreted, leading to queries and misunderstanding over estimated costs to repair any damage.