Container Weighing to be Mandatory

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is expected to make a mandatory requirement to verify the gross weight of containers before they are loaded on board a vessel.

The purpose is to make the entire container supply chain safer. This regulation is expected to be issued through the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention) as a result of a number of accidents involving container losses and container stack collapses. The existing SOLAS regulation already obliges shippers to declare the correct container weights, but this is not always done.

The mis-declaration of container weights has been an issue that has concerned many in the shipping industry for some time. The SOLAS amendment will require all containers to be either be directly weighted to confirm the shippers declared weigh or to use a method of “calculated” verification whereby the shippers can weigh all packages and cargo items including pallets, dunnage and the tare (unladen weight) of the container to confirm the weight.

It is important to note that the regulation is anticipated to forbid the loading of containers unless the verified gross mass is available to the terminal and the ship’s master.

This compromise solution will disappoint many that wanted all containers to be actually weighed but some argued that it would not be possible in some countries to weigh each container.

The draft guidelines agreed by the IMO Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargo and Containers sub-committee in September 2013 will now be put forward to IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee for approval in May 2014 and hopefully to be adopted in November 2014, so that they can come into force before May 2016. The amendments would add new paragraphs to SOLAS regulation VI/2 Carriage of Cargos, Regulation 2 – Cargo information. An exemption would apply to containers carried on a chassis or trailer driven on or off a ro-ro ship engaged in short international voyages.