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Safety: Weighty container issues

Mike Compton | jeu., 10 fvr. 2011 In his 400th safety column for Cargo Systems, Mike Compton (pictured) discusses the latest developments concerning misdeclaration of container weights

Having completed the summary of Amendment 35 of the IMDG Code in the recent columns, the message should be clear any organisation involved in the shipment of packaged dangerous goods should have either the hard copy or the electronic copy and a specialist who can advise and answer queries on it. That, plus training for all those shoreside personnel involved in the shipment of packaged dangerous goods, should ensure that the level of correct declarations, marking and other requirements of the IMDG Code is greatly improved in the future. The problems of misdeclaration of contents found with packaged dangerous goods have also surfaced in relation to another piece of information required to be declared. It is a requirement of SOLAS VII Regulation 2 that not only the correct description of the goods to be shipped should be declared but also the correct gross weight. At one time the sea freight and port charges were based on weight and, with most port handling equipment having relatively low SWLs, it was imperative that the correct gross weight was known. Those parameters no longer apply and it was, therefore, at least to the landlubber community, somewhat surprising to learn that misdeclaring under (or over) the gross weight could affect the stability of a ship. This is not about overloading the container but declaring its gross weight at, for example, 10 tonnes when in fact it is 15 tonnes. Whilst one would not make any difference, as explained in the official report into the MSC Napoli if there are hundreds of such misdeclarations placed on deck, there could be hundreds of tonnes of extra weight which could in certain circumstances affect stability. One of the outcomes of this was that the MARIN Report on the three years research into the stresses imparted to containers and lashing when in a

seaway included a simple statement that all containers should be weighed before being taken on board the carrying ship. This was noted by the Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers Sub Committee of IMO (DSC) in September 2010 and, in response, it invited member governments to submit proposals for new work items for this and other issues arising from the MARIN Report to the Maritime Safety Committee at its 89th meeting in May this year. Whilst it will not be known whether any such proposals are forthcoming until papers appear on the IMO website after the deadline of 11 February, it is anticipated that such action is likely. Clearly, any action IMO takes of a mandatory nature must relate to and build on the already mandatory SOLAS requirement and that applies to any ship over 500grt. This is quite a small ship e.g. a feeder ship and it will, therefore, also apply to the small terminals that they use. They will have different abilities in terms of equipment and the necessary finance to add additional weighing capability. What this means is that a solution needs to be found which will be flexible enough to cover all possibilities from the largest high-throughput terminal to the smallest low-throughput facility. There is also the fact that some countries already have requirements concerning weight verification these have been enacted in order to ensure that the roads, highways and bridges are not over stressed but it amounts to the same thing. The starting point should be that no container should be loaded onto its carrying ship unless/until the weight has been verified and carrier and loading terminal must adapt their systems to ensure that this is achieved. How and when the container is to be check weighed should be the subject of agreement between the carrier and the loading terminal with the following possibilities to consider: Carrier to insist on a weight certificate when the goods are delivered to the export terminal Road haulier to use a public weigh bridge before entering the terminal Road haulier to use an in-terminal weigh bridge Terminal lifting equipment to compute weight and system checks that weight with the declared weight

If the carrier and terminal are left to agree on the method, it will enable the various capabilities and possibilities to be taken into account. Undoubtedly, some of them will involve extra costs and that will have to be recouped. These are my own thoughts and are written before any papers are submitted or decisions reached. It will be interesting to follow this through as we lead up to MSC/89 and beyond. This is the 400th safety column for Cargo Systems, in an unbroken sequence stretching back to March 1976 and I hope that readers have and are getting as much value out of as I have had in preparing them. Share | Share your thoughts on this article Print | email this page | email the editor |

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