A major rift between groups representing shippers has developed over
proposals requiring verification of container weights prior to loading.
The proposal is to be considered next week at a meeting of the
International Maritime Organization's Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods,
Solid cargoes and Containers.
In an unusual joint press release issued today, the Asian Shippers
Council (ASC) and the European Shippers Council (ESC) called for a
rejection of the IMO proposal, saying it would "hamper flows of goods in
the global supply chain without addressing the root causes."
The Global Shippers Forum (GSF), which includes the U.S. National
Industrial Transportation League among its members, said earlier this
month that the proposal before the IMO was a compromise, providing two
methods for verification of container weights and that it "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."
Peter Gatti, executive vice president of the NIT League, said "the
League supports the compromise along with GSF." He noted that "in the
U.S., all outbound containers are weighed, and the IMO proposal gives
shippers flexibility to verify weights in several ways."
But ASC and ESC claim that "the proposals are made without proper
analysis being carried out, including a possible impact assessment.
100-percent checks are not feasible in practice and will not address the
root causes of the accidents at sea. Making weight verification
mandatory will merely add to the costs, resulting in undue delays in the
supply chain without significantly decreasing the risk of occurrence of
The ASC and ESC, which are not members of the GSF, claimed they "jointly represent 75 percent of world container trade."
"We ask the IMO to analyze the existing supply chain [and] identify
what should and could easily be done to improve the existing system in
order to reduce the number of misdeclarations of container weight,
instead of merely increasing the legislative and administrative burden.
"We believe that better communication amongst the different players
in the supply chain," they continued, "a clear deadline, improved IT
capability at major gateways, increased use of intelligence to match the
actual weight and the declaration would make an immediate difference to
reducing the number of misdeclarations of containers blamed for some
high profile accidents. The worldwide shippers’ and shipping communities
are vast and varied, with different levels of maturity. A
one-size-fits-all solution now being discussed at the IMO is not only
ineffective, it may even be detrimental to international trade and
The IMO proposal is also supported by the World Shipping Council, the
principal trade association for the liner shipping industry. "There is
an obvious difference of opinion within the shipper community about the
proposal before the IMO," Chris Koch, the WSC's president and CEO, said.
"ESC and ASF do not believe that there should be an IMO requirement
that loaded containers' weight be verified. WSC believes that this is
simply wrong and that the evidence from years of experience clearly
proves it to be wrong. So does the Global Shippers Forum, as they have
clearly expressed with their announced support of the proposed
compromise. So do numerous governments that have been working to address
this problem. So do numerous other industry organizations.
"The compromise before the IMO was developed with numerous
governments' and NGOs' input, through many rounds of give-and-take, and
the compromise explicitly addresses shippers' desires to have two
alternative methods that can be used to verify the weight of a
container," Koch continued. "We remain optimistic that this minority,
negative voice against a container weight verification requirement will
not deter the IMO from agreeing to the proposal before it." - Chris Dupin