The European Shippers Council is calling for an "alternative path" to deal with concerns of overweight containers.
Proposals to improve safety by getting better information about the true
weight of loaded shipping containers failed to move forward this September during a meeting of the International Martime Organization's Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes, and Containers.
In a press release issued Thursday, ESC said what is needed "is an improvement in the exchange of information between shippers and container liner shipping companies.
"European shippers insist that a mandatory deadline for the delivery of the final shipping instructions by the shipper to the carrier’s office will largely solve the issue of 'misdeclared container weight,'" the Brussels-based group said.
"The present lack of a clear deadline for shippers to share their shipping instructions leads to unexpected container roll-overs and unreliable stowing and loading plans for container ships. In particular the latter problem can cause difficulties for a ship’s master when determining whether or not the safety limits of the ship have been exceeded," it added.
ESC noted in liner shipping when a carrier takes on board a containerized shipment there is some "accepted flexibility" with the latest information which has not yet been fully processed in the carrier’s database.
"Instead of using real time data, a carrier will often use the shipper’s booking data to determine its stowplans," ESC explained. "This stowplan is in turn the basis of the terminal’s loading plan. The mutations a shipper makes to the approximate weight of its container as declared in the booking data is regularly not processed in a timely manner. Such delay leads to a gap between the registered loaded container weight on board a ship and the real loaded container weight. Due to this discrepancy, shipmasters sometimes, for the sake of a safe journey, improvise and decide to leave some ready-to-be-shipped containers on the quayside with the resulting costs to be paid by the cargo owner, the shipper."
To resolve this problem, the ESC asked that carriers should be given the opportunity to create a stowplan on the basis of the latest cargo information available, namely the shipping instructions.
"A legally defined delivery deadline for the shipper’s shipping instructions would be the best way of solving the problem of this information gap. Shippers and carriers must negotiate (along with other stakeholders in an intra-sector working group) on the exact definition of such a mandatory deadline. Such a deadline would have to be early enough for carriers to produce a stowage plan on the basis of the shippers’ real-time data; yet not so early as to unnecessarily increase supply chain lead times too much," the group said. - Chris Dupin