The problem of overweight shipping containers could continue for a number of years, despite a recent vote in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to amend its Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) Convention, which would see the production of a verified weight certificate before a container is loaded onto a ship.
Marco Wiesehahn, policy advisor for the European Shippers’ Council (ESC), told the Intermodal Europe event in Germany that the mandatory weighing of container before they are shipped was not only unnecessary, but could cost shippers around the world $5 billion (£3.13 billion) a year in additional costs.
According to the ESC, there is no factual evidence that the problem of shippers not declaring the correct weight exists.
Despite some resistance to the new regulations, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has written to the European Commission (EC) to back the newly proposed article that would deal with the verification of container weights.
Experts at the FTA and the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) have worked constructively with the IMO and other stakeholders in the industry to create a new verification process for container weighing, which will substantially address the problem of misdeclaration of containers and enhance safety standards on EU roads.
Chris Welsh, FTA’s director global and European policy, said that the FTA strongly believes that a uniform approach across all modes of transport will achieve the same objectives as the IMO Solas changes, while avoiding possible conflicting provisions.
“The carefully crafted amendment to the Solas Convention provides for two methods of verification: weighing the fully packed container via a weigh bridge/station at the container terminal, or via a calculated weight method whereby the shipper must weigh the constituent parts of the consignment to arrive at the gross mass weight of the container, subject to verification schemes to be adopted by national maritime safety administrations.”
Some industry analysts and experts believe that the problem of increasing container weights is being masked by the improved efficiency of trucks.
The shipping industry has time to discuss the implications of the new measures, as they are a long way from being adopted, with the next IMO Maritime Safety Committee taking place in May 2014 at the earliest. This will be the first opportunity to approve the regulations, which can then only be formally adopted a year later, meaning that the first possible opportunity to implement it will be May 2015.
In practice this process could be extended by a two-year “waiting period”, to ensure the industry has sufficient time to adjust to the new rules, which means that for the next four years containers in the global supply chain that have misdeclared weights could be intermodal accidents waiting to happen.