TT Talk - The 21st century Plimsoll issue?
IMO's Maritime Safety Committee, which met in May, has agreed to the development of measures to prevent loss of containers, including the verification of proper weight used on shipboard computers.
This may lead to modest changes to the wording of the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea Convention), which already calls for the shipper to declare weight (and content) accurately. However clarifying the information required to verify weight will increase the enforceability of the shipper obligation.
The TT Club has seen numerous instances where misdeclaration has compromised safety and contributed to accidents on the road, rail and in ports. As a result we will welcome this new requirement.
A change in the law will not only give strength to the liner operators, but also ensure that weight will be verified at a particular 'choke point', mid-way through an intermodal movement. This will inevitably improve compliance at the outset.
While not being insensitive to incurring additional cost we also recommend the industry should weigh all units not just laden ones. This recommendation is based on insurance claims and known experience of accidents and security issues involving empty containers.
There are numerous technologies that support accurate weight/mass verification, either by measuring on the twistlocks of trailers/chassis (by compression) or of lifting equipment (load sensing). These technologies are to some extent 'emerging' and not fully deployed globally. However the Port Equipment Manufacturers' Association (PEMA) has committed itself to develop measuring for all lifting devices, even manual pallet trolleys, including retrofitting methodologies.
We believe that SOLAS can be modified to require that the gross mass of containers is verified and within 1.0% tolerance of the gross mass declared on the shipping documents. However, we urge that measurements should be verified at the earliest possible point in transport, not just at the ports, and a weight receipt from an authorised body should accompany the transport documents. This would then satisfy the requirement for the entire journey, including transhipments.