Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Freight Forwarding Representatives Welcome Decision on Verification of Shipping Container Weights

IMO Committee Put Forward Draft Proposals for Safety at Sea Policy Changes
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – The two options which the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was pondering on this week at the meeting of the Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid cargoes and Containers (DSC), regarding the future weighing of shipping containers prior to export, and which we wrote about earlier this month, have been considered and a recommendation will be forwarded to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval. The decision taken has pleased the UK organisation representing the country’s forwarding community, the British International Freight Association (BIFA).

Although the committee will remain in session until the 26th or 27th, details of the preferred choice of draft amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) chapter VI has been decided upon. In an ideal world the obviously preferable option would be for all 20’ and 40’ boxes to be weighed prior to loading at the port, this also being the preference of many labour organisations, particularly given the amount of deaths and injuries caused historically by misdeclaration of weights. The vast diversities in size, quality of staff and equipment and the different nature of the huge number of global ports concerned always made this an unlikely choice.

The second option, and the one adopted and put forward to the MSC by the committee, requiring mandatory verification of the gross mass of each container, is that the draft amendments will add new paragraphs to SOLAS regulation VI/2 Cargo information to require the shipper of a container to verify the gross mass of container, and to ensure that the verified gross mass is stated in the shipping document. The packed container should not be loaded onto the ship if the verified gross mass has not been provided or obtained.

To enable this, the gross mass of each container will have to be verified by either weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified equipment; or by weighing all packages and cargo items and adding the tare mass (mass of an empty container) to the sum of the single masses. What is not clear at this stage, and what the unions will no doubt be keen to clarify, is who will be authorised to declare the verified weights and from whom will they gain that authority.

The Sub-Committee further agreed that an exemption to the requirements would apply when containers carried on a chassis or trailer are driven on or off a Ro/Ro ship engaged in ‘short international voyages’, another detail requiring clarification. The draft proposals were given qualified support by BIFA, whose Director General, Peter Quantrill, said:

“The compromise proposal was most probably the best possible outcome and BIFA will now work with its members to work out how they comply with the requirements of the new rules when they come into force, without adding significant costs or causing supply chain delays. BIFA notes that the proposal still has to navigate several stages through the IMO’s legislative process and, if successful, will most likely not come into force before May 2017.

“We understand that the draft guidelines will now be forwarded to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval in May 2014, and assuming that approval is forthcoming at that meeting, be formally adopted at a further meeting of the MSC in May 2015. It is usual for there to be a 24 month waiting period before SOLAS amendments take effect. Clearly the implementation of the new rules is a lengthy process that should give the industry time to adapt and allow our members time to make sure that they continue to comply with their responsibilities to make accurate cargo declarations.”

Photo: The damage caused by overweight containers can be spectacular, and expensive.