IMO REQUIREMENT FOR CONTAINER WEIGHT VERIFICATION
The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) at its 93rd session (May 2014) approved changes to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention regarding a mandatory container weight verification requirement on shippers. This is an effort WSC has been advocating for many years. Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargo and Containers (DSC) Sub-committee approved changes to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention that will require verification of container weights before loaded containersmay be placed aboard ships. The DSC report was approved by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2014 and adopted by MSC in November 2014. The requirement making container weight verification a condition for vessel loading will become legally binding on July 1, 2016.
The full text of the applicable SOLAS regulations can be found here and the Implementing Guidelines issued by MSC are available here.
Below is a summary of the past developments at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address the documented safety issues and other problems that misdeclared cargo weights cause. A more detailed outline of this activity is available in «History of IMO Action to Improve Container Safety» produced by the World Shipping Council.
On November 21, 2014, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 94) officially adopted the new SOLAS requirement that as a condition for vessel loading, the weight of a packed export container be verified by the shipper using either of the two permissable methods. The SOLAS container weight verification requirement will enter into force on July 1, 2016.
MSC 93 (May 2014) approved the proposed changes to SOLAS Regulation VI/2 that were approved by DSC 18 (September 2013) and which require verification of packed containers’ weights as a condition for vessel loading. The approved changes to SOLAS will be submitted to MSC 94 (November 2014) for final adoption. The actual date of entry into force of the container weight verification requirement on shippers will be decided as part of the MSC 94’s adoption, but their earliest entry into force would be July 1, 2016.
MSC 93 also approved the accompanying implementing guidelines approved earlier by DSC 18. Without awaiting the formal adoption of the changes to SOLAS by MSC 94, the Guidelines have been circulated as an MSC Circular (MSC.1/Circ. 1475) to the SOLAS Contracting Governments for dissemination to parties in the international containerized supply chains. The MSC Circular can be accessed here.
The IMO’s Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC), at its 18th session (DSC 18), reviewed and amended the draft amendments to SOLAS regulation VI/2 related to mandatory verification of gross weight of containers and the accompanying draft implementing guidelines effected by the correspondence group establshed by DSC 17. The approved proposed changes to SOLAS and accompanying draft Guidelines are included in the DSC 18’s report submitted to MSC 93 for consideration in May 2014 (Annexes 1 and 2 of the report).
In June 2012, the governments of Denmark, The Netherlands and the United States, along with a group of five maritime industry associations lead by the World Shipping Council, co-sponsored a formal proposal to the IMO to amend the SOLAS convention which would require the weight of all packed containers be verified prior to loading onboard a vessel for export. It was supported by a submission citing several examples of incidents involving misdeclared container weights. This proposal, along with an alternative proposal submitted by Germany, were considered at the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Dangerous Cargo (DSC) in September 2012 (DSC 17). A compromise proposal was developed with widespread support to amend the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Regulation VI/2 of the SOLAS Convention to require, as a condition for vessel stowage, the verification of the weight of packed containers. Such verification can be achieved through the shipper’s signed declaration of the container weight, obtained either by weighing the packed container (Method #1) or by weighing all of the contents of the container and adding the container tare weight. If a shipper does not provide the weight verification, the vessel and terminal operators would have the option of weighing, at the shipper’s expense, the packed export container to obtain the verified weight and thereby keep commerce moving. DSC 17 established a correspondence group, chaired by the U.S. and in which WSC was a participant. The group was tasked with developing both specific amendments to SOLAS and accompanying draft guidelines for the implementation of the compromise proposal for consideration at its next meeting (DSC 18) in September 2013.
In March 2011, the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) submitted a formal proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to consider issuance of a regulation making it mandatory for packed containers to be weighed as a condition for being stowed aboard ships.
WSC and ICS commended the IMO for taking action on this important issue at the May 2011 meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 89). In that meeting MSC 89 agreed to establish a new work item to address the issue of misdeclared container weights and to undertake other measures to improve the safety of container stowage and ship operations.
The work item to address container weighing was assigned to the IMO Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC), which began consideration of this subject at its September 2011 meeting. To assist the sub-committee in its consideration of mandatory container weighing, the World Shipping Council (WSC), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and BIMCO submitted a joint paper, «Development of Measures to Prevent Loss of Containers,» that recommends that the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention be amended to require verification of containers’ actual weights before stowing aboard a ship regulated by SOLAS. In December of 2011, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) also voiced their support for these SOLAS amendments.
The World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) issued a joint statement to explain the problem with misdeclared container weights, the efforts that have been undertaken to date to address the issue, and the reason that the industry is calling for an international solution to the problem from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). (December 2010) Read the statement.
GUIDELINES FOR THE SAFE TRANSPORT OF CONTAINERS
In November of 2009, the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) published “Safe Transport of Containers by Sea: Guidelines on Best Practices”. The Guide covers the various parts of the transport chain that have an impact on the safe movement of containers by sea and includes a distillation of the good practices that are already undertaken by responsible companies within the chain.