Groups representing shipowners, port and terminals, and shippers are all urging the U.N.'s International Maritime Organization to approve a requirement for verification of container weights.
Four groups, the World Shipping Council, International Chamber of Shipping, BIMCO, and International Association of Ports and Harbors, said in a joint statement issued Wednesday that misdeclared container cargo weights have been a long-standing problem for the transportation industry and governments and present safety hazards for ships, their crews, other cargo on board, workers in port facilities handling containers, and on roads. Incorrectly declared weights lead to incorrect ship stowage and accidents.
They also facilitate unlawful evasion of customs tariffs and duties, while also impairing customs authorities' ability to perform accurate cargo security risk assessment, the statement noted.
"The IMO has recognized and discussed the problem of incorrect container
weights for over six years. With the input of many governments and
industry organizations, the IMO now has before it an openly and
carefully negotiated and crafted compromise proposal for addressing this
recognized and documented safety and customs problem," the groups said.
The IMO's Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid cargoes and Containers (DSC) will meet later this month to consider a draft amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.
The shipping organizations calling for change said if the amendment is approved, it would then move to the next IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2014, and then be officially "adopted" by a subsequent MSC. The formal adoption cannot take place earlier than 12 months after the committee meeting where the proposals were agreed, i.e., MSC 95 in May 2015.
"Upon adoption, there is typically a 24 months 'waiting period' before the SOLAS amendments take effect, which would be May 2017. This very lengthy process would ensure more than ample time for shippers and the industry to easily adapt to the new rules," the World Shipping Council and other organizations said.
Meanwhile, the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) also issued a statement yesterday saying it supports the same proposal.
"GSF maintains that the majority of shippers act responsibly and comply with their responsibilities to make accurate cargo declarations.
However, a number of recent incidents have highlighted that weight misdeclarations may be on the rise. We believe that the IMO
Correspondence Group proposals are sensible and proportionate and will lead to improved operational performance and enhanced safety within the maritime supply chain," said Chris Welsh, GSF secretary general, in a statement. - Chris Dupin