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commentary by Norman M. Douglas
A monthly intelligence report on container topics
THE long-awaited SITPRO Report (publication of which was held up, I gather, by delays at the printer) makes interesting reading for those concerned with containerization. Set up by the National Economic Development Council following recommendations originally contained in the EDC's report "Through Transport to Europe", the 25-man committee had among its members two experienced container operators—Gordon Bickmore, a director of Containerway and Roadferry Ltd, with particular responsibility for services to Scandinavia, and one M. G. Graham. economics adviser to the board of Overseas Containers Ltd.
Also on the committee were two people with vested interests in containers—J. MacNaughton Sidey, managing director of Anglo Overseas Transport, Ferrymasters and Sea-Land Services Inc, and John Ratter, lately of the British Railways Board and chairman of Intercontainer, the private company set up by the various European railway systems to handle container transport throughout Europe.
While most of the subjects dealt with in the report affect, indirectly, containerization, two matters in particular will be of interest—(1) standard marking code for containers, and 121 HM Customs procedures.
THE uniform container coding system, the committee suggests, must be adopted because of the confusion which has already been caused by the use of individual coding systems, particularly at multi-user container berths and depots. "The choice clearly lies," the report states, "between the potential chaos of present numbering systems and the savings, both in time and money, offered by a standard international marking code."
Reference was made in the report to the proposals of the International Standards Organisation for a marking code suitable for data processing. Noting that the ISO code was still in the discussion stage and had not been adopted by ISO Technical Committee 104, the report illustrates the proposed markings which should be arranged on containers in two lines, Line 1 Owner's code 4 letters Serial number 6 figures Check digit 1 figure Line 2 Country code 3 letters Characteristics of the container (size and type) 4 figures As has been mentioned in a previous article, it is the container type or variety which is so important, as there are reckoned to be over 60 variations currently in use: and it is here that the SITPRO proposals could well come in for some criticism, because the ISO recommendations which they support appear to cover sizing and typing of container varieties in very general terms.
The SITPRO committee illustrates in its report the difficulties it ran into over this, in the following manner: "The Type Code: Agreement proved very difficult as there is no common understanding of the types already in existence and provision had to be made for
future developments. A basic structure has been agreed and individual type numbers allocated where agreement was possible. In particular, it has not yet been possible to allocate individual numbers to refrigerated and tank containers."
The report recommends that all container operators should adopt the international standard marking code when it is eventually issued by ISO, and the question is immediately posed: does this affect hauliers? Obviously the SITPRO committee thinks that it does, as it has included the Road Haulage Association and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in its "for action by" column.
Inland Clearance Depots praised
ON the question of Customs procedures, SITPRO singled out Inland Clearance Depots for praise. Mentioning that 10 such depots were in operation, the committee stated: "We have no doubt that this development and the various special procedures associated with it. which Customs have adopted to meet the needs of container traffic, have made a positive contribution to the facilities of UK international trade."
The report goes on to mention the fact that, in May of last year, the Customs authorities issued a Notice which set out their requirements, procedures and facilities for goods in containers, and highlighted the fact that only one official form was now required for units passing to or from a port to an inland depot.
The Customs suggested that UK importers should be allowed to defer payment of duties, as is the practice in many other countries, in particular those of the European Economic Community, and that Customs should provide official attendance without charge, to meet extended hours of working at ports and docks.
A coming of age
THE initials ACCS mean a lot to hauliers, particularly those based around Preston and Larne. As the forerunner of the now Stateowned Container and Roadferry, ACCS (or to give it its proper title, Anglo Continental Container Services Ltd) virtually cradled containerization between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its first load crossed the Irish Sea between this country and Larne just 21 years ago this week. For the record. ACCS's first container was a black painted wooden box measuring 16ft x 7ft x 6ft. and it was bought second-hand for a mere £5. Exhibition material formed the first load to make this historic journey.
Through fair weather and foul the company has prospered, until now it has a capital of £4m plus, and over 4,000 pieces of equipment, including containers, trailers, Lancashire flats, and road transport vehicles.
Man in command of ACCS at that time was Gordon Woollam. He still runs the fleet, as Containerway and Roadferry's chairman, and it is significant to note that most, if not all, of the company's board members have road haulage backgrounds, including Bill Cherry, one-time managing director of British Road Ferry Services, and Ron Davies, who was a BRS district manager in the north of England, before taking over as Containerway's managing director. Another member on the board is Harold Elliot, of Pickford fame.
Where does Containerway and Roadferry go from here? Having linked up with container operators in most of the near European countries and Scandinavia, rumours have it that the company has its eyes on Japan, using the already-tried and much publicized MAT trans-Siberian Railway route across Asia— known in container circles as the "Asian Landbridge."
An alternative to LI FT
HAULIERS will be pleased to learn that soon there will be an alternative to the LIFT inland clearance depot at Stratford, London. Recently formed is a company known as London (East) Inland Container Depot. The participants are well-known names in the business—Cunard Steamship Co, T. Wallis Ltd, Brown, Jenkinson, British Railways, Lambert Brothers (Shipping) Ltd, Gracechurch Line, and Freight Terminals Ltd.
Two board meetings were held last month, and Press announcements are expected to be made shortly. For those interested, the depot will be virtually adjacent to the present LIFT terminal. More information about this can be obtained from Lambert Brothers: but don't forget, it's all very confidential, at the moment!