The Asian Shippers’ Council (ASC) and the European Shippers’ Council (ESC) said that proposals to be considered next week at the IMO have been “made without proper analysis being carried out, including a possible impact assessment”.
Next week the IMO sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers will be considering whether to press ahead with mandatory weighing and verification of containers prior to shipment through the amendments to SOLAS.
The shippers’ councils said that 100% checks were not feasible in practice and would 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 such accidents,” they said.
The joint statement made by the ASC and ESC late Thursday contradicts the view put forward by the Global Shippers’ Forum on 4 September, which called on governments to support the amended proposals on container weight verification to be considered at the IMO next week. At request of shippers and several governments the proposal was amended to allow two methods for verifying the weight of containers.
The ASC and ESC claimed that they represent 75% of the global container trade. Rather than the mandatory weighing of containers the two shipper bodies said: “We ask the IMO to analyse the existing supply chain, 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, 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.”
Overweight containers have long been an issue of controversy and have been seen as a possible cause of boxship casualties. “Recent container ship casualties vividly demonstrate the importance of properly declared containerised goods shipments,” Bimco, ICS, the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) said in a recent joint statement calling on the IMO approve the container weight verification proposals.
Industry observers believe large numbers of incorrectly stowed overweight containers could have been what caused the five-year old boxship MOL Comfort to split in two in heavy weather while transiting the Indian Ocean in June this year.
Overweight containers were also highlighted by the UK’s Marine Accidents Investigation Bureau (MAIB) in its investigation into the MSC Napoli casualty in 2007. However, the shippers’ councils noted that report also said the effect of the discrepencies between the actual and declared weights of containers alone was insufficient to have caused structural failure to the vessel.
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