Mandatory box weigh-ins start July 2016, threatens to disrupt cargo flow

MANDATORY container weigh-ins pose big problems for smooth cargo flow when they come into force in July 2016, a recent multimodal conference in Birmingham has been told, reports Lloyd’s List.

As ships grow bigger – with 24,000 TEUers (twenty equivalent unit) on the drawing boards – the problem of keeping seafreight flowing becomes acute when all containers must be weighed before loading.

Different countries are approaching the new rules, hatched by the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in different ways, speakers said, with some expecting to evade rules altogether.

Richard Brough, technical director of the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), said that in a recent survey, 10 per cent of containers were found to have wrongly declared weights.
“Some countries are ignoring it altogether and hoping the issue will go away. It won’t,” said Capt Brough.

UK Marine and Coastguard Agency hazardous cargo advisor Keith Bradley showed examples of container stacks collapsing and cited one case where an unnamed vessel recently lost more than 500 containers overboard.

These either stay afloat at sea and endanger shipping, or damage the environment when they wash up on shore. But the problem extends to overland transport too, and Capt Brough showed pictures of derailed freight trains and cars crushed by unstable containers falling off trucks.

Freight Transport Association (FTA) policy director Chris Welsh said shippers are responsible for weights declarations, but said it “makes life difficult” when declared weights are false or the nature of the goods have been misstated. There were also complications around groupage containers and consolidations, he said.

The FTA said ports may have to carry weighing on scales attached to reach stackers when shippers have not provided the data. Realistically, this is too late in the process and Mr Welsh warned of disruption.

“The technology exists but it’s “difficult to change the stow plan. Containers would have to go back to the stack, risking delays”, he said.

While some want every box weighed, the FTA has successfully won acceptance of a more user-friendly approach for big business that allows the drinks industry for example, which ships regular large quantities through without weigh-ins.