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Shipping industry wants action on container weights

Written by Nick Blenkey

MOL Comfort hoggingSEPTEMBER 5, 2013 — Many observers feel that misdeclared container weights likely played a role in the recent breaking in two of the five-year old containership MOL Comfort.

Now the shipping industry is urging IMO to approve a container weight verification requirement

MOL Comfort before breaking in two

A statement issued by IMCO, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the World Shipping Council says that misdeclared container cargo weights have been a long-standing problem for the transportation industry and for governments. The problem is significant and arises in almost every trade. Misdeclared container weights present safety hazards for ships, their crews, other cargo on board, workers in the port facilities handling containers, and on roads. Incorrectly declared weights lead to incorrect ship stowage and accidents. Misdeclared container weights facilitate unlawful evasion of Customs tariffs and duties, while also impairing Customs authorities’ ability to perform accurate cargo security risk assessment.

The statement notes that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is on the verge of addressing this recognized and documented safety problem. The collective work and agreement of 15 governments and 13 industry groups have forged a compromise solution to be considered in mid-September by IMO’s Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid cargoes and Containers.

Th shipping industry believes this compromise should be adopted as a long-needed improvement to maritime safety.

According to the statement issued by BIMCO and the three other organizations:

Existing IMO requirements are deficient. The SOLAS Convention already requires shippers to provide a correct cargo weight declaration, but the existing provisions are not enforced and are ineffective.

IMO member governments participating in the IMO correspondence group, shippers, and maritime industry organizations agree that the way to solve this problem is to require a packed container’s weight to be verified before the container is loaded onto a ship.

The technology exists to verify container weights without delays or significant costs to commerce.

The IMO instructed a special Correspondence Group to develop an amendment to the SOLAS Convention for the “mandatory verification of gross weight of containers” and Guidelines for the implementation of such requirements. This has been done with extensive input and support of 15 governments and 13 industry representatives. At the request of shippers and several governments, the final compromise proposal allows for two methods to verify containers’ weights, but all methods used must provide reliable weight verification. The compromise has facilitated agreement across the widest possible group of governments and industry participants.

The responsible IMO Subcommittee is scheduled to consider these recommended changes to the SOLAS Convention in London in mid-September.

Recent container ship casualties vividly demonstrate the importance of properly declared containerized goods shipments. Responsible shippers recognize the problem of misdeclared container weights and agree with the proposed solution.

If the safety and Customs problems associated with misdeclared container weights are to be solved, it is imperative that the IMO adopt the proposed container weight verification requirement without further delay.

The IMO has recognized and discussed the problem of incorrect container weights for over six years. With the input of many governments and industry organizations, the IMO now has before it an openly and carefully negotiated and crafted compromise proposal for addressing this recognized and documented safety and Customs problem. That proposal also includes carefully considered implementation guidelines as requested by DSC 17.

It is time to solve the problem. It is time for the IMO to adopt the solution that is before it.

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