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Shipping Groups Want Requirement for Loaded Containers to be Weighed Before Export

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The World Shipping Council and the International Chamber of Shipping are urging the International Maritime Organization to establish an international legal requirement that all loaded containers be weighed at the marine port facility before they are stowed aboard a vessel for export.

A joint WSC/ICS paper asserts that while there is no available data that reliably indicates how many containers are overweight, the problem is significant and arises in almost every trade to some extent. Shipping lines have reported that in severe cases the overweight or incorrectly declared weights reach 10% of the total cargo on board a vessel, and some carriers report that it is not uncommon for actual total cargo weight aboard ship to be 3-7% greater than the declared weight. There are numerous problems resulting from overweight containers, including incorrect vessel stowage decisions, collapsed container stacks, containers lost overboard, cargo liability claims, damage to ships and chassis, risk of personal injury or death to seafarers and shoreside workers, impaired service schedule integrity, service delays for shippers of properly declared containers, lost revenue and earnings, liability for accidents and fines for overweights on roads, and decreased vessel fuel efficiency.

In 2008 the WSC and the ICS jointly produced a document setting forth guidelines on best practices for the safe transport of containers by sea. These guidelines specifically address the issue of containerized cargo weight and the importance of not overloading containers, but they “have had little discernible effect on reducing the incidences of shippers’ providing incorrect container weights, or on ensuring that marine terminals verify the weight of loaded containers upon receipt/prior to loading.” This is attributed to a variety of factors, including concerns among shippers and port facilities that the costs and time associated with weighing containers could negatively affect their competitiveness.

The two organizations therefore believe that the IMO should establish a universal international regulatory requirement that marine terminal operators weigh stuffed cargo containers upon receipt and have a verified container weight before loading a stuffed container aboard a ship for export. This requirement would apply to all loaded containers, whether received through the port facility gate or transshipped at the port facility via another vessel, barge or rail. The verified container weight would then be provided to the vessel operator for use in confirming and finalizing vessel stowage plans. The WSC and ICS note that the U.S. already imposes a weighing requirement and that other jurisdictions are moving in that direction, meaning that “there is no technical or operational reason” that such a requirement cannot be imposed.

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