Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The disconnect with shippers in container weighing

The disconnect with shippers in container weighing
Attending a briefing by INNTRA on its new e-verification system for mandatory container weighing a few weeks back was interesting for a number of reasons, but not least for the fact it highlighted the incomprehension from box shippers about global shipping regulations.

The mandatory verification of container weights will come into force on 1 July under the IMO’s International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). This is clearly not before time – I remember hearing tales back in my rookie reporting years in the mid-90’s of quay cranes being broken by overweight containers and the dangers that could result. Yet it is only from 1 July 2016 will container lines really know how heavy the cargo they carry actually is.

But with less than three months to go to enforcement its being treated with apparent shock, indifference or simply “err, we have to do something?” by fairly serious parts of the industry and governments in many places. This was pointed out all too well by a second survey by the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA) that we reported on Monday.

While the FONASBA survey was both illuminating and alarming it also brought home, as did the INNTRA briefing, the fact container shippers have very little, if any idea about how the global shipping industry operates or is regulated beyond the limited sphere in which they are used to operating in as customers.

For the container shipper community SOLAS appears to be a standalone regulation that has suddenly hit it out of the blue – not part something that has, in different forms, governed the safety of the global shipping industry since 1914. Indeed privately one executive said told us part of the problem is the shippers are saying – “What is this IMO?”

The disconnect between shipping and its customers – on anything beyond price negotiations - has always been apparent, but even by industry standards the issues surrounding the container weighing regulation underscores this point.

Based on what we have been told the neither shippers or ports are ready in many parts of the world, but container lines are adamant that the regulation be adhered to – as they should be.

This is about safety of life at sea, and customers and governments need to recognise this, which is what the IMO is trying to do.