There has been a substantial increase in transport by sea and by
inland waterway over the past three decades: the amount of dry
cargo loaded and unloaded in maritime ports throughout the world
increased from some 375 million tonnes in 1937 to over 1,000 million
tonnes in the early 1970s. When the first edition of the ILO code of
practice relating to safety and health in dock work was prepared, it
was based on the most usual pattern of dock work at the time,
namely the "break-bulk" system under which cargo was largely
handled piecemeal with the aid of dockside cranes, ship's gear and
normal road transport. Goods were laboriously made up in sets in
the 'tween decks or on the dockside and lifted by means of slings,
cargo nets or pallets. Lifts of over 5tonnes were the exception rather
than the rule. The work involved was both arduous and dangerous,
and as a result this occupation had one of the highest accident
frequency and severity rates.
While dock work continues to follow this pattern in many parts
of the world, there have been some highly significant developments
that are leading to profound changes in the nature of the work.
Perhaps the most spectacular of these changes has been the intro-
duction of freight containers; with their aid a ship of 30,000 tonnes
or more can be turned round in two or three days, during which time
2,000 or more containers may have been handled. A second develop-
ment has been the introduction of the "Ro-Ro" systemroll-on-
roll-off ships by means of which large quantities of freight travels
from country to country on lorries without unloading. To meet these
developments, a number of new ocean terminals have been designed
and laid out to handle this traffic exclusively. Sophisticated mobile
lifting equipment has been introduced, and mechanically operated
loading doors, ramps and lifts are to be found in the ships them-
selves, enabling powered fork-lift trucks and similar vehicles to move
goods from deck to deck and from ship to shore.
This situation led the Governing Body of the International
Labour Office to convene a meeting of experts on safety and health

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