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About the CTU Code

about the CTU Code

About the CTU Code


The CTU Code is a joint publication of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Commission for Europe (UNECE). It provides a non-mandatory global code of practice for the handling and packing of shipping containers (and other cargo transport units) transported by sea and land.

The Code is designed to address major concerns for all parties involved in global cargo securing, relating to poor practice in the packing of cargo transport units. These include inadequate securing of cargo, overloading and incorrect declaration of contents. These failings can have a direct impact on members of the general public, or transport and supply chain workers – who have no control over these errors or their consequences.


The 2014 CTU Code updates the 1997 IMO / ILO / UNECE Guidelines for Packing of Cargo Transport Units.

The key requirements are as follows:

  • A safe working environment must be provided
  • The CTU and any lashing equipment used must be in good condition
  • The most suitable CTU for a given load must be selected
  • Any load must be distributed evenly across the container floor
  • Lashing and protection systems that are uncertified or incompatible with a load must not be used
  • Any necessary marking and signs must be applied to the CTU exterior

“The Code tightens and clarifies the responsibilities and obligations of the various participants in the marine supply chain – consignors, packers, road haulage companies, rail companies and recipients. This is a positive change, as it allows the cause of damage to a load to be swiftly identified. As a CTU passes through so many hands in the global shipping industry, this pinpointing of liability allows authorities to deal effectively with any incident. The Code is usable when a related complaint reaches court, which was not the case with the previous Guide.”

Current CTU Code Status

Whilst initially views were expressed that the Code would, like the previous Guide, carry little weight in the industry, the significance placed on it is increasing constantly. The spectacular explosion at Tianjin Port in August 2015 – with estimated insured losses of between $2.5 and $3.5 billion – provides a backdrop against which working practices and risk management within the global supply chain should be considered.

Adoption of and compliance with the CTU Code is becoming expected worldwide. For example, the Thai International Cargo and Terminals Association (TICTA) have recently informed customers that the terms of the CTU Code must be complied with in their facilities.

Such moves are part of a wider drive globally to standardize the way containers are presented and secured. Another indication is the introduction in July 2016 of Verified Gross Mass regulation, requiring shippers to state accurate container weights for the first time in the 60-year history of the industry.