container_being_liftedStarting today, 16th September, the IMO sub–committee on dangerous goods, solid cargoes and containers is meeting to tackle the festering issue of overweight containers. On the table is a proposed amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) being pushed by the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation). In brief, it would make mandatory the weighing of containers in ports in lieu of the present system of ‘self regulation’ by shippers. Let’s all cross our fingers that it will see the light of day.

The ITF proposal calls for mandatory weighing of loaded containers; a process in place to address the misdeclaration of container weights; and a new rule that ship masters can refuse to load undeclared or misdeclared containers. The United States and Danish governments as well as The World Shipping Council (WSC) and The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) are supporting the idea. The ITF has urged other countries and industry representatives to do likewise.

The dangers posed by overweight containers are all too familiar. Paddy Crumlin, president of the ITF president and chairman of its dockers’ section, sums up the issue for transport workers: ‘We estimate containers, which are declared as one weight but in reality are substantially lighter or heavier, may be in the region of 20% of cargo. That presents a major health and safety risk to dockers loading and unloading in ports, to seafarers onboard cargo vessels and to drivers transporting containers on the roads.’

Where workers’ safety is at stake, inaction by those concerned would be unconscionable. ~Barista Uno

A copy of the ITF proposal can be downloaded here.

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