A CSC plate refers to the ‘Container Safety Convention’. In 1972 at a joint conference with UN and (International Maritime Organization) adopted the convension requirements as drafted by the IMO and the Economic Commission for Europe. Put simply, this convention outlines the regulations for testing, inspections, approval and maintenance of shipping containers as well as the structural safety requirements and tests.
The CSC plate is fixed onto the container by the factory who has had its container design thoroughly tested out to meet all international standards. It is then the responsibility of the container owner to ensure the containers is periodically examined and kept up to standard. So container owners, like ourselves or major shipping lines and leasing companies employ the use of container yard who have competent inspectors for the assessment and repair of shipping containers
In the UK there are 2 bodies that can issue qualifications to container inspectors, Bureau Veritas and IICL (International Institute of Container Lessors). Any would be inspector need to undertake exams to show the bodies their basic knowledge, and will commonly be required to have various reference books to hand which are issued and updated by the authority.
Any qualified container inspector will have some form of photo ID with his or her registration number on that can be checked with the issuing body.
We as container owners then ask the container yard and their nominated inspectors to check a container, advise us of any repair costs required to bring it up to standard and then to re-certify the container for a period of time that the inspector is happy with (Typically 6 or 12 months for used equipment, nearly new equipment some inspectors may offer up to 30 months maximum)
In our case they will add a sticker onto the container showing the CSC expiry date that will sit atop the original shipping container expiry date
What is ACEP approval and what does it mean?
Major shipping lines and a couple of leasing companies also run an ‘ACEP’ (Accredited Continuous Examination Protocol) system. This is essentially the same checking process that is undertaken when updating a CSC expiry date – but instead of putting a new sticker on the container every time it come into a depot, they simply ask their depot to examine their containers every time.
In very basic terms, if you own your own boat, and if you own your own fleet of shipping containers that travel on your boat, you are not legally obliged to maintain any specific repair standards by maritime law (although shipping lines do appreciate that without good containers they wont’ have customers for very long!)
The examination procedure is exactly the same and the same depots repair a container with an ACEP approval. A Container with an ACEP number will not have an expiry date. Officially if you buy a CSC plated container that comes with an ACEP plate it is still good for export use, the original owner of the container is essentially saying ‘we are selling this container to you in a seaworthy condition, and you are allowed to ship it under our ACEP number / approval reference for a reasonable period after purchase (A reasonable period usually termed as 6 months).
There is a little ambiguity with ACEP plates and the serviced you ship on. To our knowledge all major shipping lines will accept shipping containers with an ACEP approval. In reality the same inspections and repair processes are undertaken and we have not yet seen or known of a customer unable to ship a container with ACEP approval.
However much like an MOT for a car, a CSC plate or ACEP approval is no guarantee of suitability (or seaworthiness) If the container has left a depot and is then damaged before arriving at a port – a port or depot may choose to turn it away at any time.
One every important point to mention, if the CSC plate has an expiry date which is nearly expired or expired you will likely require a new CSC exam before you can export this container. We have come across people of eBay and similar sites selling a container as CSC plated just because it has a CSC plate on it (regardless of expiry). This is not correct and you can find yourself in a very sticky situation if you tried to export one of these containers without checking it carefully.
Some of the physical CSC plated may not show an expiry date as they have to date been run under the ACEP scheme. in this instance we recommend presuming that the container is not in date for export use (much better to spend £200 getting it checked than £2000 when your container won’t ship or potentially a lot worse if it collapsed a container stack, shut a port and killed a couple of dock workers in the process).