Asian shippers question practicality of container weight rule
The Asian Shippers' Council complained that an agreement last week by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on mandatory verification of gross weight of containers is unworkable and was not done with what it called “proper representation” from shippers.
It complained that neither it nor the European Shippers' Council were involved in meetings to discuss the draft amendments to Chapter VI of the Safety of Life at Sea convention when the IMO’s Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers considered the issue.
The Global Shippers Forum, from which the ASC resigned last year, did support the changes and said yesterday it believes the rules on container weights was “the best possible outcome for shippers, saying it was a compromise proposal that creates a flexible and workable solution.”
GSF noted it had worked with the IMO to achieve the compromise and “welcome the fact that they listened to our concern regarding flexibility which will go a long way to tackling the recognized safety problem of misdeclared cargo weights.”
GSF noted it had participated in meetings of the IMO and backed a compromise that allows a second method of verifying container weights, the so-called calculated weight method.
It noted this compromise option was accepted because “there was recognition that every container could not be verified by weighing at the terminal, and this could add unecessary costs and delays.
GSF also said its recommendations aimed at providing maximum flexibility for implementation at a national level were accepted.
ASC said the IMO scheme is “doomed to fail” and “not workable in practice.”
“There are millions of shippers across Asia, with different levels of maturity and different operational constraints. Before arriving at a key gateway for export, cargoes may have to use multiple modes of transport – trucks, ships and/or rail. Can you imagine trying to implement what is agreed at the IMO in such a challenging environment? As there are many emerging countries elsewhere – in South America and Africa - in similar situation, a one-size-fits-all requirement cannot work. It has not worked for 100 percent security screening and it will not work for 100 percent verification of gross weight of containers,” said John Y. Lu, ASC chairman.
ASC said at terminals in key gateways such Busan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, “there are thousands of containers coming through daily, many of which are transhipped. Should a mere fraction of these present some kind of problem over verification, it would have dire effect over the operation of the terminals.”
“We know that 100 percent verification being considered would increase the cost burden for shippers, generate additional paperwork and cause unnecessary delays in the supply chain. Will it improve safety? We have strong doubts,” Cai Jia Xiang, convenor of Greater China area and vice chairman of the China Shippers’ Association, added.
ASC asked government to analyze the impact of the amendments on their respective countries, assess its implications and take appropriate action.
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