Flat racks - Heavy-weight champions with a catch

By Christian Bohlken, Marine Surveyor, Battermann & Tillery Global Marine GmbH, IUMI Professional Partner,

Whenever it gets big and heavy in containerised transport, flat racks take the strain. With payloads of up to 50 mt, flat racks allow the shipment of liner cargo that will not fit into any container, and this is particularly favourable for today’s just-in-time manufacturers.

However, transport of large and heavy cargo is still risky business. Excessive width or height can damage the cargo even during transport or handling. Damaged, sloppily repaired or ill-maintained flat racks are a considerable problem, too. Careful planning and regular inspections will minimise these risks.

In addition to international guidelines (CTU and CSC codes), the individual specifications of the flat racks and the cargo need to be considered. Depending on the travel area, the cargo, the flat rack, and the cargo securing materials will be exposed to different strains.

During loading, the main focus must be to position the centre of gravity correctly. Any deviation can have serious consequences. Furthermore, the weight is to be deflected into the load-bearing components of the flat rack. Loading the entire weight onto the wooden flooring should be avoided. 

Considering extremely long, wide or tall cargo units, cargo securing also presents several pitfalls. In general, cargo securing is achieved by direct lashings and bracing constructions. Using wedges or nailing timbers to the wooden floor is not allowed. Tie-down lashings are also to be avoided as they provide only 10 to 15 per cent of the material’s nominal securing force. Frequently, lashings are applied as so-called C-loops which are led vertically around the cargo such that both ends of the belt end up on the same side of the flat rack. If the cargo is wider than the flat rack however, a C-loop cannot effectively prevent shifting of the cargo. Securing against tipping is also to be considered –depending on the height of the cargo.

Professional and timely planning is key for the safe transport of cargo on flat racks.

Christian will discuss practical aspects and pitfalls related to cargo loaded on flat racks in an upcoming IUMI webinar. Find out more and register here: