ACEP is a container inspection method that effectively ensures container safety and it is important to know what lies behind it. Containers are usually built on the request of the container owners by the manufacturer. All containers need to be built based on the ISO and CSC standards at their base level to be eligible for international transport. Any customisation on the container is built over these basic standards. Once the container is in its final form, it is classified according to the ISO and given a container ID number. This number needs to be displayed on the CSC plate of the container.
PES and ACEP
It is the responsibility of the owner to maintain the container in good condition and arrange for the container to be inspected at regular intervals to check for defects and potential dangers. The responsibility is transferred to the lessee if the container is leased. Two types of inspection can be carried out, Periodic Examination Scheme (PES) and Approved Continuous Examination Programme (ACEP).
Both these inspections are very similar except for the frequency with which they are carried out. If the container is under PES, then the first examination takes place 5 years after the manufacture date and then every 30 months. Under ACEP, apart from the regular inspection every 5 years, checks also happen during a major repair, refurbishment, or when the container is hired for purposes. But the container should not go without inspection for not more than 30 months.
What does ACEP entail?
To ensure the safety of containers, the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) enforced the ACEP – Active Continuous Examination Program through the CSC (Convention for Safe Containers of 1972) to regularly inspect the containers. The regulations for ACEP are listed in the CSC and is enforced by the IMO sub-committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC), which is under the authority of the Maritime Safety Committee.
The ACEP identification numbers are given out by National Administrators to containers that meet certain requirements and the numbers are publicly available since 2010. National Administrations also delegate the job of issuing ACEP to classification societies, which happen to be companies, who have the credibility and the specialisation to conduct container surveys. The IMO has not released a document that helps to identify these companies, but a local Maritime Administration or the BIC (Bureau International des Containers) can help find an ACEP issuing authority.
The BIC hosts a Global ACEP database with the support of its member states. The information is globally available to anyone interested. This is mandated by the ISO and the International Customs Convention. Members can easily look up their ACEP status on the online database, and they are notified whenever the contents of their ACEP changes. The database is constantly updated for new members and information. Control officers can easily look up the containers through the ACEP numbers and can avoid transport delays.
Why choose ACEP over PES?
- The examination periods are frequent and consistent.
- Since ACEP inspections occur frequently, minor damages can be fixed sooner instead of waiting for another 30 months.
- Under ACEP, the CSC plate does not have to be updated immediately as the ACEP ID doesn’t change after every examination and the CSC plate remains valid.
- Since the CSC plate remains valid, there is no risk of penalty due to the violation of CSC.
- The ACEP online database is automatically updated and notifies the container owner about the date of the upcoming inspection.
What happens during the inspection?
Firstly, a professional who has enough knowledge, skills, and capability should inspect the container to determine if the container is defective and can cause accidents. The container must be available to the inspector emptied and cleaned. It should have holdings to be lifted, to get a view of the container from the bottom. The container should also be in a safe place with enough lighting with all the necessary tools to test the container properly.
The inspector has the responsibility of making a detailed examination of the exterior and the interior of the container. If the container is loaded during the examination, the inspector can ask for it to be unloaded. In some cases, the inspector might ask for the insulation to be partly removed if he/she doubts that it is covering some defects. A skilled inspector must essentially look for the following factors in a container;
- Condition of welding
- Condition of riveting
- Mechanical damage
- Condition of all the structural components such as corner fittings, end frames, fork-lift holdings, floor, roof, etc.
What follows the inspection?
At the end of the inspection, if the inspector finds that the container has no defects and doesn’t pose any threats, he/she makes a written statement that the container was found safe during the examination and will cause no danger to human life.
The owner or the lessee of the container is notified of the following information:
- The container ID as inscribed on the CSC plate
- Date of examination
- Methods of testing carried out
- Based on the current condition of the container, the date of when the next examination must take place. This date does not exceed more than 30 months from the date of the examination.
- The information of the inspector and their employer.
The owner of the container or the lessee now has the duty of affixing the date of examination on or next to the CSC plate. If the inspector finds the container defective, they should state whether the container is unsafe for loading, or if it can still be moved to a different destination as an empty container. The owner or the user should be fully informed of the disadvantages.
Maintaining records from the inspection
The owner of the container needs to retain all the documents and make it available for the next inspection for whenever it happens. If the container is at that point leased or changed hands to a different owner, the documents need to be copied and handed over to the respective individuals. A system of maintaining records needs to be in place to save the Container ID, date of examination, Inspector’s details, name and location of the examination and the results.