Thursday, March 12, 2015

Changes to Cargo Container Weight Regulations Require Freight Industry to Speak Up Now  

Coastguard Issues Consultation Document Which Will Affect All Those Who Load Export Boxes

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Shipping News Feature

UK – With a major change due next year regarding the responsibility of shippers for the declared gross mass of loaded export freight containers, the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) has issued a consultation document prior to the UK implementation of the revised provisions which come under SOLAS VI Chapter 2 as issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The new regulations require the shipper of containers loaded with cargo to verify and provide the container’s gross mass to any carrier, and terminal representative, prior to it being loaded onto a ship.

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has publicised details of the consultation on its website, giving contact information for interested parties, and illustrated two specific questions within the documents which it feels requires answers. Both concern ‘Method 2’ whereby a shipper calculates the total mass after weighing all goods, packaging and stowage materials and adds to the declared tare weight of the box.

BIFA wishes to know how many companies will seek approval under this scheme and ask if two years an appropriate period of validation for the use of Method 2? Interested parties should not waste time in responding to the consultation as it closes on 31 March 2015.

Having established the correct gross mass of a container the new regulations require a shipping instruction to the carrier, no matter what form it takes, to state a ‘verified gross mass’. If Method 2 has been used the document must clearly show the shipper’s approval number under the scheme.

What is clear within the consultation, is that the details for verifying container weights is purely the responsibility of the shipper, and the method used to establish these must be sorted out by those involved in the export process, or, as the document puts it, ‘participants within the supply chain should agree amongst themselves the processes necessary to ensure that the weights are available prior to the packed container being loaded aboard the ship’.

There are three instances for which the shipper does not bear responsibility for gross mass. Roll on Roll off (Ro/Ro) traffic where the box is carried on a trailer chassis onto the vessel, conventional cargo which is then stuffed into the container which is already on board the vessel, and finally ‘offshore containers’, a definition of which can be found in a link in the document but which will not generally concern shippers.

The changes are actually long overdue and have been necessitated by the increasing number of accidents, unfortunately sometimes fatal, due to the misdeclaration of weights. Containers, often loaded far in excess of their declared mass can crush boxes stowed below or cause an imbalance when they are stowed aboard a vessel.

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