How Container Stowage Planning works

image for long readReposted with some updates.. 

What is container stowage planning..??

Simply put, it is the act of allocating space to containers on board of a container ship in the order of the discharge ports..

This is a topic of great importance and is my favourite activity in the whole realm of container shipping operations..

Tools required :

  1. The scheduled list of ports that the ship will be calling at, in the order of rotation
  2. A summary of the number of containers – size/type/weight of containers per port that are planned to be loaded on the ship
  3. A summary of the number of hazardous, reefer and OOG containers per port that are planned to be loaded on the ship
  4. List and summary of containers that are on board after discharge of the containers at your port.. for the purposes of this article, we will consider this port to be Durban..

Definitions :

Profile – is the cross sectional view of the entire ship covering both the deck and under-deck of the ship..

Bayplan – is the complete cross sectional view of the entire ship covering both the deck and under-deck of the ship, but displayed or printed per bay

Bay – each container vessel is split into compartments which are termed as Bay and depending on the size of the ship it will proceed from 01 to 88 bays (you can read my take on an interesting comparison between stowage plans of older ships and current Triple E type ships) where Bay 01 is the bay towards the Bow (the front) of the ship and Bay 88 is the Stern (the back) of the ship..

Odd numbered bays (1,3,5 etc) means that it is a 20’ stow and Even numbered bay (2,4,6 etc) means that it is a 40’ stow..

Confused..?? Look at the below picture.. I have used Bay 09/11 (10) and Bay 13/15 (14) as an example here.. What you are seeing here is the cross section of the ship both on deck and under deck.. Each of the small square blocks represents a 20’ unit space..

image of stowage plan

Row is the position where the container is placed across the width of the ship.. If you refer to the above diagram, the Row numbers are circled in Green.. It starts with 01 in the center and progresses outwards with odd numbers on the right (starboard) and even numbers on the left (port)..

Tier denotes at which level the container is placed – basically how high the container is stacked on board.. In the above diagram, the Tier numbers are circled in Red..

Hatch Covers (the dark intermittent lines in the above picture) are the covers that separate the deck from the under-deck.. The area above the line is called the deck (which is generally visible to us when we look at the ship) and the area below the line is called under-deck (which is not visible to us from outside the ship)..

The planning is mainly done on a document called a “profile” which can be viewed here.. The profile provides the full cross section of a ship at one glance.. The enlarged version of this will be the actual bay itself.. Currently, the stowage planning is mostly done via computers..

Although the computers do most of the work, the basis on which they work is the tried and tested methods that have been followed for many years around..

  • the list of containers that are to be loaded on board are segregated by destination..
  • space is allocated to each of the containers
    • firstly in the order of destination – the farthest destination at the bottom and the next port of call right on top
    • secondly in the order of weight – the heaviest boxes at the bottom and lightest at the top

For reasons of lashing and securing containers, a 40’ container can sit on top of two 20’s, but two 20’s cannot sit on top of 40’ (unless it is under deck and surrounded by other containers or within cell guides)..

In the above profile i have used various alphabets and colors..

  1. F for Felixstowe
  2. A for Antwerp
  3. Ae for Antwerp Empty
  4. H for Hamburg
  5. L for Le Havre
  6. R for Rotterdam
  7. X to indicate that its a 40’ contr..

The rotation for this vsl is Felixstowe, Antwerp, Le Havre, Hamburg and Rotterdam.. So as you can see, Felixstowe containers are stacked right on top of other containers as this will be the first port of call after Durban..

Rotterdam will be the last port of call hence it is right at the bottom of the heap.. In this fashion the entire ship is filled with the containers that are to be loaded at each load port while also taking into account the containers that are ALREADY present on board from the previous ports..

Stowage PlanningIf you notice, there is a container in stow position 130612 (Bay 13, Row 06, Tier 12).. If you want further info on how to read the bay plan, please read http://shippingandfreightresource.com/2009/03/31/identifying-a-stow-position/)..

Let’s assume that this container was wrongly stowed or a restow was requested at a later stage to now discharge this in Felixstowe..

In order to reach this container, all containers above it on deck (8 containers to Antwerp and 4 contrs to Le Havre) must be “restowed” (taken off the ship and landed on the wharf side and put back on board once this box is taken out)..

Then the hatch cover has to be opened to reach this one container.. As you can imagine, this involves considerable cost and wastage of time for the ship..

So to avoid these costs and wastage of time, it is highly imperative that the right destination, right weight, and haz info if any is accurately passed onto the ship..

Each of the bays have deck stress or tier weight which is the maximum allowed weight that each of the tier/row can carry as per the design of the ship..

For example if there are about 4 containers in a tier each weighing 26 tons, it may not be possible to accommodate all 4 in one tier as this might affect stability due to the heavy nature of the cargo..

However, if there are 5 tiers of empty containers as shown in Bay 15, it might be possible to load.. These calculations will be performed by the computer itself and it will show up as errors..

Some of the most commonly used software for ships planning are CASP, MACS3 and Bulko.. These use the BAPLIE file format structured by UNEDIFACT..

Also interesting to note that a lot of Container stowage is done in centralised hubs these days..

What did you think of the above article..?? Comment below..

46 comments on “How Container Stowage Planning works

  1. Ignacio Flores says:

    How are flat racks accounted for in stowage?

    1. Hello Ignacio, flatracks also have same dimensions and corner posts as a standard container and therefore can be stowed or overstowed by other containers.. However, if cargo is Out of Gauge (OOG), then there will be a different stow provided or in some case (if rotation permits) they may be the top most tier loaded.. In the case of OOG cargo the line will charge for lost slots as they are losing loading space for other normal cargo..

  2. Very informative article… thanks!!

  3. P R Rajesh says:

    Its a very informative article…..however can you please advise on the HC stowage…..since it is 1 ft taller than the 20′ & 40′ std is the TIER height based on the standard or HC contrs. Are there specific bays where only hc’s are stowed?

    1. Hello Rajesh, there is no specific bays or stow for HC as it is quite normal these days..

    2. Martin Baez says:

      P R Rajesh

      I’ve seen a cargo planning in action and as per i could note, the tier height is based in standard containers.

      HC contaners are considered as 2.25 TEU when planning.

      If there are many HC containers in a tier, you are likely to reduce the quantity of containers to load in that specific tier because of the total height.

      Remarks: This is my own experience. Type of vessel: Pontoon Barge.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  4. Abdul Gafoor says:

    Very good article, thanks a lot.

  5. Alex says:

    If a container’s row number is even (e.g. 020682) it’s on port side, and if it’s uneven (e.g. 020184) it’s on starboard side. In your article you used left and right which define direction not a ship’s side. This information is more useful for checkers and for the ship’s crew.

  6. Mario says:

    Perfect explanation!
    Thank you for the time and effort!
    Have you also got an explanation of the logistics on a terminal?

  7. Ashwin says:

    Very nicely said and it is easy to understand

    1. Thank you Ashwin.. I am glad you find it that way..

  8. lamine says:

    Clear explanations, l have been in this biz for 6 years. Lamine

    1. Welcome Lamine.. Glad that you found it useful.. Maybe you can share this with all your other colleagues in DP World.. 🙂

  9. Frankie ks says:

    hi thanks for the simple explanation about shipping containers…by the way what is RUSSIAN STOWAGE

  10. naveedalam says:

    Really helping material for new comers who join planning post for any Shipping Terminal,
    Thanks altos. ..

  11. Monseo Panton says:

    Very easy and understandable, I am a contracter at APM Terminals Liberia. Can you please improve my skills in Bay Planning.

  12. shahnaz pervez says:

    I totally understand but I want to do course for vessel planner how I can approach for this as I ma living in Dubai

    1. Edward says:

      Hi there, for discharging 13-06-12, total restow should include bay 15 port side deck “Ae” 20 containers because the hatch cover is entire piece covering both bays.

  13. syafiq shah says:

    thanks for the lessons ..

    1. mathan says:

      MPA is qualified and experiance of shipping management

  14. Hello there, Thank you very much for this great articel. Now I can imagine the Stowage plan image above.

  15. michfang says:

    Hi, How do I read bay profiles with even numbers? do they share the same profile as odd numbers? eg. Bay 15 (14)?

  16. E.M. says:

    Great article!

  17. naveed khan says:

    Its a nice method.I have join this field before a month and i have asked from many persons in this field but they have not satisfied me.Thanks

    1. Manaadiar says:

      Hi Naveed, glad to be of help.. That is the aim of this website..

  18. khegi says:

    hi! im just a new seafarer but this sites helps me a lot of understanding whereabouts of the containers on the vessel…its a nice blog for newbies like me…i hope that you continue making more important and easier methods…

    thanks!

  19. vishal koli says:

    i Would like to know is there any certification course or training provided by any institue for stowage planner? Pls assist

  20. vishal koli says:

    i want to learn stowage planning of container vessel
    pls would u pls help me .

    vishal koli

  21. Anand says:

    Hi Manaadiar, Would like to know is there any certification course or training provided by any institue for stowage planner? Pls assist

  22. alcan says:

    why is that, that the numbering of tiers are not in sequence, like the tiers below deck started 02-12 and the tiers on deck started their no. in 80 or 82? where are the ties no. 14- 78?

  23. Girish Mhatre says:

    Good work…

  24. Filipe says:

    Thanks for your notes. they helped me a lot as I am applying for a Vessel planner position.
    They are a great help to everyone wishing to learn in this subject

  25. javier says:

    Hi, and what about the proper lashing of containers on deck( single, double bars, heigts) and the correct use of the different types of twislocks?

    1. manaadiar says:

      Hi Javier, these are important topics of course, but i am not an expert on the lashing aspect.. Would you be interested in elaborating further on the lashing methods you have mentioned above..?? Pls feel free to write a guest post on that subject if you are interested..

  26. Andrew says:

    Hi Manaadiar, regarding the stowage of vessels it is not possible to load 20′ on top of 40′ containers, considering that you have indicated that some line do practice this please be so kind as to supply the names of these companies. Any stowage co-ordinater worth their salt would never plan a vessel in this manner.
    The norm is 40′ on top of 20′ under deck and on deck if the confirg. of the bays allows for this.

  27. manaadiar says:

    Hi Kerby, there are vsls and lines that do load 20’s on top of 40’s in certain circumstances , specially where there is a space restraint and there is no danger to the lashing and also when using fully cellular vsls with cell guides..

  28. niren jayram says:

    This is how I had learnt about stows
    Stand at the accommodation of the vessel facing front(bow)
    1) yr nose is the fWD
    2) yr back is the AFT
    3) yr left hand is the PORTSIDE
    4) yr right hand is the STARBOARD SIDE

    Correct me if I am wrong

    1. manaadiar says:

      That is right Niren..

  29. Capt. Sharma says:

    Thanks a lot for this article.

  30. Deon says:

    Hi Manaadiar, interesting website for newbies to the shipping industry. I work in a stevedoring industry and just reading your topic on stowage/planning. This is an imperative function, it my view it is the heart of operations, as it determines various costs. not only on the container sector but the breakbulk as well.
    Proper planning/stowage could mean greater returns to us all in the freight industry especially in this time of economic crisis.

  31. Deon says:

    Hi Manaadiar, interesting website for newbies to the shipping industry. I work in a stevedoring industry and just reading your topic on stowage/planning. This is an imperative function, it my view it is the heart of operations, as it determines various costs. not only on the container sector but the breakbulk as well.
    Proper planning/stowage could mean greater returns to us all in the freight industry especially in this time of economic crisis. Thank you for an informative and innovative site.

    1. Vikram says:

      nicely explained

You may also like :