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Freight Containers (Safety) Ordinance, Cap 506
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1. The Freight Containers (Safety) Ordinance, Cap 506, and its four pieces of subsidiary legislations (i.e., the Freight Containers (Safety) (Applications for Approval of Containers) Regulation, Freight Containers (Safety) (Fees) Regulation, Freight Containers (Safety) (Arrangements for Authorized Persons) Order and Freight Containers (Safety) (Examination Procedure) Order) were enacted respectively in May 1997 and May 2001 for the purpose of implementing the "International Convention for Safe Containers, 1972" in Hong Kong. The Convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization to standardize the requirements for testing, inspection and approval of containers, and to prescribe procedures for their maintenance, examination and control so as to ensure safety in their handling, stacking and transportation. The Ordinance has been further amended and enacted in June 2006 and it has come into force together with its four pieces of subsidiary legislations on 10 November 2006.

2. Under the Ordinance, the owner of a freight container has the duty that his container has valid approval with a valid 'Safety Approval Plate' fixed on it and the maximum operating gross weight marked on it, and is properly maintained and periodically examined. In a case where there is an express term of a bailment or lease of a container, the bailee or lessee of the container is responsible for the above-mentioned duties.

3. The Ordinance also requires owners, bailees or lessees of freight containers used as transport equipment ( see definition below) of cargoes or for use or supplied for use in Hong Kong to comply with the statutory requirements of this Ordinance. Some salient points of the Ordinance requirements are given below for quick information and reference.

Definition of Cargo, Freight Container or Swap Body (s.2 of the Ordinance)

"cargo" means any goods, wares, merchandise and articles of any kind carried in a container;

“container” and “freight container” means an article of transport equipment which is :-
(a) of a permanent character and accordingly strong enough for repeated use;

(b) designed to facilitate the transport of cargo by one or more modes of transport, without intermediate reloading;

(c) designed to be secured or readily handled or both, having corner fittings for these purposes; and

(d) of a size such that the area enclosed by the outer bottom corners is either:-
(i) at least 7 square metres if the container is fitted with top corner fittings; or

(ii) at least 14 square metres in any other case,
whether or not it is being carried on a chassis, but excluding any vehicle or packaging being used in conjunction with the article.

"swap body" means a container which is specially designed for carriage by road only or by rail and road only and is without stacking capability and top lift facilities;

Application (s.3 of the Ordinance)

1. Except as provided in the subsection below, the Ordinance applies in relation to any container in use or supplied for use and which is in Hong Kong.

2. This Ordinance does not apply in relation to-
(a) a container designed solely for use in air transport;

(b) a swap body, except when it is carried by or on board a sea-going ship and is not mounted on a road vehicle or rail wagon.
Conditions of Use of A Freight Container (s. 4 of the Ordinance)

The owner or a bailee or lessee of a container shall not use or permit the container to be used unless following conditions are complied with. The main provisions for conditions of use of a freight container are summarized as follows:-
(a) Container must have valid approval. This approval may be issued by a government of a country which has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Convention or a government of a place to which the Convention applies ( refers to s.5 to s.9 of the Ordinance);

(b) A Safety Approval Plate must have fixed to the container that has valid approval.

(c) Container must have been properly maintained in a safe condition;

(d) Container must be examined in accordance with an examination procedure prescribed or approved by the government of a country which has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Convention or a government of a place to which the Convention applies;
Approval of Containers etc. (s. 5, s.6 and s.10 of the Ordinance and Cap 506A)

1. The Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region is one of the contracting parties which have ratified the Convention. Any person wishing to obtain approval of the use of containers in Hong Kong may in writing apply to the following authorized persons (Authorized persons are appointed by the Director) to approve the individual containers and the design type of containers and their subsequent examinations and certification etc. in accordance with s.5, s.6 and Schedule 1 of the Ordinance and Cap 506A.

2. An individual or prototype container is to be examined and tested as to the structural safety requirements and test standards specified in Schedule 1 and Cap 506A of the Ordinance before the individual or container design type can be approved by the "authorized person". The authorized person should witness the structural tests of the container including lifting test, stacking test, concentrated loads test, transverse racking test, longitudinal restraint static test, end walls and side wall tests. Relevant certificates and records are to be issued and kept by the concerned authorized persons for their works and duties discharged under the Ordinance.

3. A safety approval plate as per s.10 shall be fixed to any container that has valid approval as per s. 5 to s.9 of the Ordinance and is marked in accordance with Schedule 2 of the Ordinance.

Authorized Persons and their functions (s.5(5) and s.6(7) of the Ordinance and Cap 506C)

1. The s.5(5) and s.6(7) of the Ordinance empowers the Director to appoint classification societies as "authorized persons" to carry out the functions of the approval of containers of an individual type or a design type. Various functions and duties of an authorized person are indicated in s.4 and s.5 of Cap 506C.

2. The following classification societies have been appointed as "authorized persons" by the Director. This "authorized persons" list will be updated from time to time.
  • Bureau Veritas

  • China Classification Society

  • Korean Register of Shipping

  • RINA S.p.A.

(Authorization continued till 30.06.2022)

Maintenance of Containers (s.11 of the Ordinance )

A container is properly maintained if it is maintained in a safe condition. For that purpose, a container shall be deemed not be in a safe condition unless it is in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

Examination Procedure of a Container (s. 12 and s.13 of the Ordinance and Cap 506D)

1. Every approved container must have an examination procedure approved by a government of a country which has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Convention or a government of a place to which the Convention applies. As the Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region is one of the contracting parties which has ratified the Convention, the owner or, the bailee or lessee who is entrusted with the responsibility of a container in the express term of a bailment or lease, may in writing apply to the Director for approval of the examination procedure.

2. Any application to the Director for approval of a proposed examination procedure in relation to containers shall contain or be accompanied by the following information and documents:-
(a) name and address of the applicant, and name of the contact person and his telephone number or email address;

(b) particulars of the owner, if he is not the applicant, of the containers;

(c) name of the authority which approved the design type corresponding to the containers and approval reference;

(d) date and place of manufacture, identification number and type of the containers;

(e) required qualifications, training and relevant experience of the 'competent person' to be appointed to carry out the examination;

(f) the manner of carrying out examination, matters to be examined and procedure of examination, matters to be determined by the competent person at the conclusion of examination, duties of the applicant and the competent person if defects in a container are found, records to be kept, and all other reasonable details of the examination procedure. Any checklist and proposed format of examination reports have also to be included; and

(g) any further information or document that the Director may consider necessary to determine the application.
3. The application with the aforementioned information and documents together with the appropriate fess prescribed under the Freight Containers (Safety)(Fees) Regulation (Cap 506 sub leg) shall be submitted to the Director of Marine at Marine Industrial Safety Section, Hong Kong Marine Department, 23/F., Harbour Building, 38 Pier Road, Central, Hong Kong.

Inspection and Control of Containers (s.14 to s.16 of the Ordinance)

If a container which has no safety approval plate or which has an incorrectly completed plate or a container displaying an examination date that has passed or an unsafe container is found, Director may by notice prohibit the use of the containers or its detention.