The International Maritime Organization today backed a compromise proposal for verifying the weight of containers before they are loaded on board ships.
An IMO subcommittee approved draft guidelines allowing shippers two methods to verify the weight of a container as part of the London-based organization’s program to improve safety at sea. Shippers can either weigh a packed container, or weigh all packages and cargo items and then add the tare mass of an empty container.
The Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers also agreed to an exemption that would apply when containers carried on chassis or trailers are driven on or off roll-on, roll-off ships engaged in short international voyages.
“It’s a good day for maritime safety,” said Chris Welsh, secretary-general of the Global Shippers Forum. “In making the right decision today, the IMO has addressed the recognized and documented safety problem of misdeclared container weights.”
The compromise is the “best possible outcome” for shippers and the maritime industry, as it provides a flexible and workable solution which can be adopted without significant costs or delays in the supply chain, the London-based forum said.
The World Shipping Council also applauded today’s proposed changes for verifying container weights:
“We have worked with the IMO to address the problem of incorrect container weights for over six years and now with the input of many governments and industry organizations, including responsible shipper associations, we are pleased that the [Safety of Life at Sea] amendments and related implementation guidelines have been approved by the DSC,” said Chris Koch, WSC president and CEO, in a written statement.
On the other hand, the International Transport Workers Federation said the IMO subcommittee had missed an opportunity to reduce the risk of harm to transport workers and members of the public by compromising on the original proposal for the mandatory weighing a container.
The IMO “opted for a compromise position, which allows governments to either choose the gold standard of mandatory weighing or the lesser measure of certifying containers on an unformulated process of verifying the weight by adding together the different constituent parts of a container load at unspecified times and places along the transport route,” the London-based ITF said.
Furthermore, the European and Asian shippers’ councils, which claim to represent 75 percent of the global ocean container market, oppose the mandatory weighing of containers, saying it will be costly and ineffective.
The proposal has to navigate several stages through the IMO’s legislative process and, if successful, will not come into force before May 2016. The draft guidelines will now be forwarded to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee for approval in May 2014.