A stowage plan for container ships is necessary for space utilisation, where containers are placed and systematically stacked onto ships. After accurate placement and stacking, the sea vessels are ready for voyages over international waters. The stowage plan aims to lash shipping containers onto the ships to prevent cargo damage due to slipping of shipping containers. A stowage plan for container ships acts as a blueprint for designing the placement of shipping containers on the vessel based on the dimension of the container, weight of the container, type of container, type of cargo inside it, and its port of destination. A planned arrangement of shipping containers is essential to increase the operational efficiency of ports and enhance revenue. Let us learn more about container stowage on containerships.
What is a stowage plan?
The process of packing and storing goods in a systematic and planned manner is known as stowage. Commercial sectors follow a stowage plan to efficiently manage and utilise the available space for storing and packing. It also helps in minimising the chances of space wastage. By aligning goods in the right way, commercial companies not only use the space but also ensure cargo safety.
For example, while packing and storing cargo for transport, the extra spaces often damage the integrity of freight by colliding with each other during turbulence. It can cause cargo damage, and the loose packing can also cause the other stacks of goods to fall off their places due to lack of support from all sides. Therefore, a stowage plan is modulated to determine the goods’ size, spacing, and alignment to make the best commercial use of the available space.
What is container stowage planning?
Container stowage planning works on two levels; first, the cargo loading onto shipping containers is supervised to utilise and fill in the container. Secondly, the container is loaded onto containerships to accommodate a maximum number of containers in one trip. It helps optimise cargo space to utilise the available space on containerships and prevent economic losses caused by ill-managed alignment of containers.
For example- Freight containers with LCL shipments are open to cargo consolidation so that the storage space does not go to waste during the trip. By consolidating cargo, shipping companies ensure that multiple shipments can fill in the empty spaces inside the container. It facilitates economic shipping. Similarly, if arranged in the wrong pattern, shipping containers on container ships can hog a significant amount of space, leaving no place for the remaining containers in line for loading. Shipping containers are stacked on containerships to load to their maximum capacity and space.
Types of stowage plan for container ships
The different types of stowage plan for container ships depending on the placement of containers is as follows-
- Cellular stowage– Most cargo ships operated by ocean carriers are cellular vessels specially designed to store freight containers efficiently. Cellular stowage is the most common method of stowing shipping containers to the deck and fixing them by slotting them into the cell guides. The cells are equipped to provide extra support to stacks of containers in vertical cells to ensure they do not shift from their places during the voyage.
- Bay stowage– Freight containers can also be accommodated into compartment-like structures called bay. As per the bay plan, the shipping containers are arranged perpendicular to the length of the cargo ship. This container stowage benefits oversized containers, such as 53-ft-high cube containers, that require more stability during storage planning.
- Hatch cover stowage– Hatch covers are structures made of steel that cover the opening leading to the cargo hold. It helps in preventing water inflow into the containership. In high volumes of shipping containers, various containerships are equipped to adjust cargo containers on top of the locked hatch covers.
- Reefer stowage– Reefer containers are refrigerated containers that operate on power sources to maintain cooling. In such cases, reefer container stowage plans must be efficient enough to place reefer containers where it is easy to manage their repairs, maintenance, and outlet for cable extensions to power up containers.
What data is required for a stowage plan for container ships?
- It is necessary to know the design, size, and capacity limitations of containerships on which shipping containers will be loaded.
- All intermediate ports between the origin and destination port where the vessel has to make a stop must be listed.
- The specifications of shipping containers- type, height, weight, size, and container numbers must also be considered while drafting a stowage plan.
- Containers with hazardous cargo that require special handling and containers that need power backup, such as reefer containers, must also be listed to plan appropriate placement for them.
- There must be a list of containers already on board before the vessel reaches a particular port to accommodate new containers between the containers already placed on the containerships.
How do you make a stowage plan?
Container placement inside containerships is essential for efficient cargo loading and unloading. It helps prevent cargo damage that may occur due to shipping containers falling from the ship during transit.
- The ship design must be thoroughly analysed to utilise every deck and cubic metre of the storage area and to properly distribute containers along the length and width of the container without hampering its stability.
- Based on the vessel’s design, the deck office decides the alignment of shipping containers vertically or horizontally.
- All data regarding the number of containers, their weight and size are analysed to arrange the number of containers that will go in one stack.
- Freight containers with FCL shipments or heavy cargo are placed below and stacked by LCL or low-weight cargo containers.
What are the benefits of an efficient stowage plan of container ships for shipping companies and ports?
Stowage plan for container ships helps in improving cargo security and revenue generation for shipping companies. It is also helpful in improving the operational efficiency of shipping ports.
- Maximised efficiency– An efficient stowage plan ensures that the vessel capacity is maximised and utilised to its fullest without any wastage of space. If the shipping containers are loaded correctly onto vessels, shipping companies can ship more containers in one trip, thereby enhancing their revenue.
- Lower fuel consumption– A systematic stowage plan contributes towards the green initiative by the IMO and reducing carbon emissions. When vessels are loaded correctly, they accommodate more containers, thus decreasing the need for more round trips and contributing towards environmental sustainability. The shipping companies spend less on voyages and fuels, increasing their profit margin.
- Faster transit– With the right stowage plan, containers can be loaded and unloaded from containerships without much hassle. It minimises vessel turnaround time and helps maximise the efficiency of shipping ports. Fast delivery by a shipping company helps in attracting more customers.
- Improves cargo safety– Shipping companies that load shipping containers based on stowage plans ensure that the freight and container load are appropriately balanced on the cargo ships. The containers are effectively fastened to the vessel, minimising the risk of slippage or cargo damage. Increased cargo protection attracts more shippers and reduces cargo losses.
- Minimises port congestion– The fast loading and unloading time at container yards is only possible if the containerships have been stowed by adhering to the plan. The systematic arrangement of containers helps to retrieve containers easily and minimises port congestion caused by the extra time taken during berthing. It enables the port authorities to follow sailing schedules without any delay.
- Safety at ports– If container placement is done according to their weight, need for handling equipment and port of destination. Workers can quickly unload the containers without any injuries to workers. Supposedly, the container to be emptied is in between a stack loaded somewhere inside the ship, and workers will find it challenging to unstack it without bothering the other containers. By following a stowage plan, port authorities ensure the safety of their workers and equipment.
- Reduces environmental impact– A faster vessel turnaround time leads to efficient utilisation of fuel and avoiding fuel wastage. The stowage plan helps control the carbon emissions rate and allows ports to align with their goal of reaching zero emissions by 2050.
These are a few benefits of stowage plans for container ships that make them ideal for shipping companies and ports to reap multiple advantages.
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