MacGREGOR is initiating the replacement of fully automatic twistlocks (FATs) with proven semi-automatic twistlocks for its customers. Somewhere between 400 and 500 containers have recently been lost overboard from container carriers in around 20 separate incidents, according to various industry sources. While the incidents are still being investigated, one common factor seems to be that the vessels involved all used so-called ‘fully automatic twistlocks’ (FATs) between the container corner castings.
While there are no reported failures of any MacGREGOR FAT products, a preliminary review of the matter indicates that the similar approach – a single latch design –employed by all FATs on the market may not, when combined with ISO container tolerances and certain other conditions, always result in proper locking, and therefore contribute to failures in the field. Germanischer Lloyd has already instructed – in an addition to its Container Securing Manual – that visual confirmation of positive latching of all four FATs on all containers is required during loading operations, which may be difficult or costly to implement.
Given the recent incidents involving FAT products, MacGREGOR believes it is in the best interests of all parties that:
1) MacGREGOR withdraws the ALC-2 and ALC-2/1 FAT products from the market; and
2) provides its customers and – subject to production capacities, all FAT users worldwide – with a timely and cost-effective transition plan to switch from the use of FATs to proven semi-automatic twistlocks.
MacGREGOR’s affiliate All Set Marine Lashing is in the final stages of developing a new generation of automatic lock (the C8A). This employs a symmetrical design and is expected to address all design issues with the present generation of asymmetrical FAT units. All Set’s C8A is expected to be approved and available during the fourth quarter of 2006. MacGREGOR is contacting its customers to discuss and agree the replacement of FAT units already in use by semi-automatic twistlocks, as well as operational requirements to be observed until the FATs have been changed.