Draft amendments to require mandatory verification of gross weight of containers under chapter VI of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention were agreed to on Friday by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC).
DSC agreed to related draft guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container-carrying cargo.
The revised draft amendments would require the shipper of a container to verify the gross mass of the cargo carried in a container, taking into account the guidelines on verification of gross mass; and to ensure that the verified gross mass is stated in the shipping documentation. The packed container should not be loaded onto the ship if the verified gross mass has not been provided or obtained.
The draft guidelines provide detailed recommendations on verifying the gross weight, which may be achieved 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.
The IMO subcommittee agreed that an exemption to the requirements would apply when containers carried on a chassis or trailer are driven on or off a roll-on/roll-off ship engaged in short international voyages.
The World Shipping Council applauded DSC for approving the proposed changes, saying misdeclared container weights have been a long-standing problem as they present safety hazards for ships, their crews, and other cargo on board, workers in the port facilities handling containers, and on roads.
The European Shippers' Council, along with the Asian Shippers' Council, expressed opposition to the proposal. They said on Tuesday that input by shippers had been disregarded, although the proposal was supported by other shippers' groups such as Global Shippers Forum, which includes the National Industrial Transportation League among its membership.
"With the lacking of shippers’ authorized representatives in IMO, no voices were raised against the proposed measure to verify the weight of each container in a certified way, even though very big industrial interests had publicly opposed the proposed measures," ESC said, adding that it "feels the legitimacy of IMO regulations suffers, if not all interests are equally represented and heard."
However, Chris Welsh, secretary general of the GSF, said “This is a good day for maritime safety, and the GSF believes that the outcome is a sensible compromise, and we are pleased that the IMO listened carefully to shippers’ arguments regarding appropriate methods for verification."
GSF said the proposal, including two methods for verification, is the "‘best possible outcome’ for shippers and the maritime industry, as it provides a flexible and workable solution which can be adopted by industry without significant cost or delays in the supply chain."
Chris Koch, president and chief executive officer of the World Shipping Council, noted his group and others have been working with the IMO for six years to address the issue.
“We look forward to approval by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2014 and the final adoption in November 2014. The container shipping industry will continue to work with all supply chain stakeholders on the processes necessary to ensure smooth implementation, which could occur in July 2016,” he said.