Today’s global economy relies on international shipping to transport goods from shore to shore.
As such, international regulation has helped bridge the gap between nations to create a worldwide standard for best shipping practices.
The Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) mandates the application of metal data plates on every shipping container.
IMO (International Maritime Organization)
In the early 1970’s, freight shipping internationally became more and more prevalent as the global economy grew. The United Nations tasked IMO with creating and enforcing regulation for international shipping.
The intention was to provide standardized practices for all nations engaging in international shipping. This would in effect reduce red tape and confusion and benefit all parties.
The 1972 Convention for Safe Containers
The regulation that IMO enacted is called the Convention for Safe Containers (CSC). Its goals were to provide higher levels of safety, as well as maintain uniform procedures.
Shipping Container Plates
One of the main requirements outlined in the CSC guidelines is the application of custom data plates to every shipping container. Note that only containers actively used for shipping need to be marked with a CSC plate.
It specifically calls for a rectangular data code plate at least 200mm x 100mm. It is required to be a permanent marking solution and must be also be fireproof and resistant to corrosion.
Information on the tag must be durable enough to hold up to the environmental conditions. The CSC guidelines mention stamping and embossing as two potential marking solutions.
In addition, the metal plate must stand out from the shipping container with a contrasting color. They typically utilize the natural silver color of metal to contrast with the shipping crate.
The tag is required to say “CSC Safety Approval” with a minimum character size of 8mm. All other data on the tag must be at least 5mm.
Combined Data Plates
Outside of just the CSC regulations, there are other standards as well. Instead of trying to create and attach multiple metal data plates, information is often combined into one large plate.
This will often include the CSC plate, customs info, manufacturer info, safety labeling, or any other relevant data.
These information plates are typically referred to as combined data plates.
Proper identification is vital in ensuring inspections and processing goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Information required to be present on the data plate may vary by region, or change with new regulation. Some of the most commonly used information includes:
- Manufacturer’s info
- Country of approval
- Identification number
- Date of manufacture
- Weight capacity
- Stacking capabilities
This data provides inspectors and workers all the information they need to safely and accurately transport and collect containers across language barriers and borderlines.
Durability is one of the most important elements for shipping. Ensuring that containers and their parts are able to withstand the constant use keeps not only product protected, but helps prevent injury to workers.
Shipping containers are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions. From rapidly changing weather, wear and tear from use, and potential exposure to salt water.
Not only do the containers themselves have to be able to withstand these conditions, but so do the identification plates mounted on them.
CSC plates are designed specifically as a long-lasting solution, even in the tough shipping conditions.
Some of the most common materials used for shipping container identification includes:
- Stainless Steel
These metal substrates provide the best durability and visibility for shipping identification.
The most commonly used process for CSC and combined data plates is the photo anodization process. It’s as if it was tailor made for the shipping application: a highly durable solution, which provides custom information and easy readability.
These plates are rated for 20+ year outdoor durability. The black design is directly embedded into layers of an anodized aluminum substrate. This ensures the data will not simply be removed in inclement conditions.
Any information, designs, or logos can be added to these nameplates. Making a combined data plate with special data and a manufacturer’s logo is no problem.
In addition, the black on silver appearance makes the information contrast very well from any shipping container.
The Convention for Safe Containers guidelines specify that the identification tags must be permanent, and information may be embossed or stamped.
These processes are relied upon to provide long-lasting marking for a slew of industries. Stamping indents the characters, while embossing raises the information.
Embossing and stamping are a more viable option if you are only producing a small CSC plate on its own. Larger combined data plates are best suited for photo anodization.
There are some benefits these processes offer. For example, if an embossed tag is painted over, it will still remain legible. However, the data and size limitations restrict these processes from being as usable for this application.
Another benefit is the ability to mark your own plates in-house. An embossing machine or similar tool allows for your data to be marked as you need it. Flat blank tags are used for these machines.
The last thing to consider with metal identification plates is attachment. CSC and combined plates are required to be permanently attached. The industry standard is to rivet or bolt the plate on with screws.
A hole cut into each corner of the plate allows for easy mounting on the container. They are most commonly affixed on the lower left side of the container doors.
Creating an international standard for shipping has allowed for international commerce to excel. By setting forth clear and reasonable standards, the IMO has allowed for safety to stay at the forefront. In addition, less red tape and easier inspections means countries can trade quicker, more efficiently, and more effectively.