Last month, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) received a formal proposal from the world shipping community to require the weighing of containers. Four of the proponents – International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), World Shipping Council (WSC), International Chamber of Shipping (ISF) and BIMCO – had earlier sounded the call to IMO in December. Whilst all this is commendable, what has it taken it so long for everyone to move? We’re reminded of the slow – and still largely uncoordinated – global action taken on Somali piracy.

We can’t help but raise the question. Containers have been widely used for at least half a century (the shipping container as we know it today was developed by American trucking and shipping entrepreneur Malcom McLean in 1956). More important, accidents involving overweight containers have been pretty well documented. And lest the point is overlooked, improperly weighed boxes pose danger not only on board ships and the waterfront, but on highways where they are transported to their final destination.

The IMO has its work cut out for it. We understand that the Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC) subcommittee has been working on a new weighing requirement which will be considered at the next DSC session in September. Will it be smooth sailing? We have our doubts. Not least of the points that need to be resolved is, who will pay for weighing the containers? Debate, inside and outside the IMO, is to be welcomed. Yet, as we’ve all seen in the Somali piracy issue, it can also stifle action. ~Barista Uno

Related blog post:

The curse of overweight containers

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