containerloadingIt’s incredible. Overloaded containers can affect a ship’s stability and lead to serious mishaps. Yet, loaded containers aren’t always weighed at port before they are stowed on board ships. In many instances, the weight declared is wrong. So it gladdens us to learn that ports and carriers are finally closing ranks for the adoption of a global regulation that would close this gap in marine safety. If embarking plane passengers need to have their hand-carried or check-in luggage weighed, why shouldn’t the same strict rule apply to shippers of containerised cargoes?

The International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has joined hands with the World Shipping Council (WSC), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and BIMCO to prod the International Maritime Organization (IMO) into amending the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). The aim: a rule change that would require the ship and port facility to have a verified actual weight of every loaded container before it is stowed on board. All four organisations have consultative status at the IMO, which makes us confident their united voice on the matter will be heard loud and clear.

The move comes as the IMO’s Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC) subcommittee, which is responsible for improving the safety of container stowage and ships operations, continues to forge a SOLAS requirement on mandatory container weighing. As instructed by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), the DSC will consider such a requirement at its next session in September 2012. Said WSC president Christopher Koch: “Shippers today are legally obligated to provide accurate weights of containers after they have stuffed them with cargo, but there are many instances where their weight declarations are erroneous. An accident involving an incorrect container weight declaration can create potential liabilities for the shipper and others handling the container. Having verified weights of loaded containers will reduce errors and risk, and will eliminate the guesswork from the business for all parties involved.”

The following picture should dramatise the point:


The container ship Deneb figured in an incident in June 2011 at the Spanish port of Algeciras. Investigators would later find out that of the 168 boxes on the load list, 16 (roughly one out of every 10) had actual weights far in excess of their declared weights – by as much as 6.7 times. Altogether, they weighed 278 tonnes more than their combined declared weight of about 93 tonnes. Imagine what the consequences would have been if the Deneb had been out at sea laden with these boxes. ~Barista Uno

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