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Ports and Carriers United on the Need to Weigh Loaded Containers

Algeciras ship sinks

June 2011: Container ship Deneb in Algeciras: A review after this incident found that 16 containers on the ship's load list had actual weights far in excess of the declared weights, by as much 6.7 times the declared weight.

The International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has joined with the World Shipping Council (WSC), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and BIMCO in the effort to encourage the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to amend the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to require, as a condition for stowing a loaded container on board a ship, that the ship and the port facility have a verified actual weight of the container. All four organizations have consultative status at the IMO.

The announcement comes as the IMO’s Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC) subcommittee, which is responsible for improving the safety of container stowage and ships operations, continues its efforts to construct a SOLAS requirement that loaded export containers have a verified weight prior to vessel loading. As instructed by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), DSC will consider such a requirement at its next session in September 2012 (DSC 17).

This container narrowly missed crushing two MUA dockworkers in February 2011. It weighed seven times its declared weight and exceeded the crane's capacity.

This container narrowly missed crushing two MUA dockworkers in February 2011. It weighed seven times its declared weight and exceeded the crane's capacity.


“Weighing containers to confirm their actual weight is the right operational and safety practice. There is substantial experience with such a requirement in the United States demonstrating that this is feasible on a technological and commercial basis. It is time to make this a global safety practice and our association will assist its members in cooperating with terminal operators to develop a suitable and effective process,” said Dr. Geraldine Knatz, president of IAPH and executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

“We very much welcome and appreciate IAPH’s support of this initiative. The tide is clearly running in support of this most important enhancement to maritime safety,” said Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of ICS.

Overloaded container in Melbourne, May 2011.

Overloaded container in Melbourne, May 2011.

“Having the actual weights of containers improves safety aboard ships, safety in the ports, and safety on the roads. There is no sound reason to continue the willful toleration of ignorance about cargo containers’ actual weights. IAPH support of this initiative is a positive development,” said Torben Skaanild, Secretary General of BIMCO.

“Shippers today are legally obligated to provide accurate weights of containers after they have stuffed them with cargo, but there are many instances where their weight declarations are erroneous. An accident involving an incorrect container weight declaration can create potential liabilities for the shipper and others handling the container. Having verified weights of loaded containers will reduce errors and risk, and will eliminate the guesswork from the business for all parties involved,” said Christopher Koch, president of WSC.

P&O NedLloyd Genoa accident

A U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch report on the P&O NedLloyd Genoa incident in 2006 found that 'incorrect weight can result in stack overload and the application of excessive compression and racking forces on containers and their lashings.'

All four organizations noted that governments around the world continue to focus on obtaining more complete knowledge of what is actually in cargo containers arriving in their countries, and that Customs authorities would welcome having accurate cargo weights as they screen import cargoes. “This is another example of industry cooperation and initiative that will increase governments’ confidence in maritime commerce,” said Dr. Knatz.

WSC, ICS, BIMCO, IAPH and other industry parties and interested governments will consult during 2012 about the development of recommended guidelines for how to implement the container weighing requirement.

The attached examples demonstrate the extent to which misdeclared container weights can exist in today’s shipping operations. This is a problem which can only be addressed through the requirement to verify the weight of all loaded containers prior to stowing aboard a ship.

For more information:

Download the IAPH report here

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