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HomeMaritimeMaersk Line clamps down on container misdeclaration

Maersk Line clamps down on container misdeclaration

The meaning of Declare (verb) is

  • to make known or state clearly, especially in explicit or formal terms;
  • to announce officially; proclaim;
  • to state emphatically;
  • to manifest; reveal; show;

When none of the above happens, it is termed as “to misdeclare” or “misdeclaration“..

Unfortunately, misdeclaration is nothing new to shipping.. It has been continuing for years especially in containerised shipments either to escape duties and taxes or to hide the valuable nature of the cargo or to hide the illegal nature of the cargo or just plain old stupidity and laziness..

Misdeclaration in weight or misdeclaration of hazardous content has been the bane of the shipping industry and the carriers who have suffered several consequences due to misdeclarations..

container misdeclaration - shipping and freight resource

What everyone needs to remember is that when such misdeclarations are done, it does not just affect the ship, the carrier involved and the person who chose to misdeclare their cargo.. These misdeclarations result in cargo damage and affect everyone else’s cargo, especially when entire ships are lost..

Millions of dollars worth of goods and assets are lost due to this, not to mention the huge impact on the environment and the loss of life (human or otherwise)..

IMO and other stakeholders took these misdeclarations seriously and SOLAS VGM came into effect.. Life after SOLAS VGM seems to be hunky dory and no major incidents have been reported in relation to weight misdeclarations..

However, the recent spate of maritime disasters is causing some worries to the container lines..

As per TT Talk 241, “as much as 66% of incidents related to cargo damage in the intermodal supply chain can be attributed in part to poor practice in the overall packing process, including not just load distribution and cargo securing, but also the workflow from classification and documentation through to declaration and effective data transfer.

Having had first-hand experience with such misdeclarations and maritime disasters, the world’s largest container line – Maersk Line – has put its foot down on these misdeclared cargoes..

Maersk Line announced that they have implemented a Physical Container Inspection Pilot within North America..

This pilot project involves Maersk Line performing inspections for Import and Export cargo into the ports of Newark Berth 88, Houston Bayport, Miami Pomtoc and New Orleans Ceres terminals..

To improve safety and reliability in the Containerized Maritime Supply Chain, random containers will be inspected and the cargo descriptions verified against actual contents of the container to check if they match and that the contents of the container are correctly stuffed, lashed and secured as prescribed in the Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code..

“The data collected through this pilot may be used to develop procedures that better ensure the accuracy of cargo descriptions provided to Maersk, as well as improve the use of the Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code)”, the company stated in a release..

The randomly selected containers will be inspected by the National Cargo Bureau (NCB) and the cost for this inspection will be paid for by Maersk Line..

Maersk Line advised that while they will take all necessary steps to have the inspections completed as quickly as possible to reduce the delay in the intended transport of the container, they warned that if the cargo in the container is found to have been inadequately stuffed, lashed, and secured, or found to contain mismatching cargo compared to the given declaration, it may need to take corrective actions before onward transportation..

These corrective actions may involve reworking the container to ensure it is compliant with the given regulations..

container reworking - shipping and freight resource


As per Maersk, where applicable, the cost for such reworking will be charged to the Shipper / Consignee depending on who has the contract with them..

As these container selections are made at random this may include containers that have already made sea transit or containers that have already undergone inspections at the loading port..

Maersk Line said, “By performing these container inspections, we hope to remove some of the risks from mis-declared or incorrectly stuffed containers for all parties involved in handling and transporting cargo, as well as work towards an overall industry improvement of safety and reliability in the Containerized Maritime Supply Chain.

Maersk and other carriers in the industry are working to improve safety and reliability in the Containerized Maritime Supply Chain, by verifying that cargo descriptions match actual contents of the container and that the contents of the container are correctly stuffed, lashed and secured.

This is the latest measure by Maersk Line as it searches for solutions to the spate of fires that have broken out on their container ships in recent years, including the Maersk Honam last year, which resulted in the loss of five lives..

Will the alliance partners of Maersk – MSC and ZIM Lines or other lines follow suit in this important issue which affects us all remains to be seen.. Stay tuned..


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  1. Harriesh – SOLAS weight compliance has no doubt provided more accurate information of container weights and reduced the risk of accidents arising from incorrect stowing, but I wonder if the shipping lines have now become complacent and tragic incidents might still occur in future? On the other hand inspection of contents and packing inside containers is a huge task – (1) will random inspections reveal all the unsafe containers? (At best it may indicate shippers or commodities which may be suspect, although the majority of these should be known already) and (2) what is the value of inspecting cargoes on arrival – if they are carrying misdeclared dangerous goods or are incorrectly packed, surely it’s too late! Ross Clarke (Verimet Inspections, South Africa)

    • Hi Ross, there is no real way to measure the efficacy of the SOLAS VGM regulation unless there are some known issues or challenges.. As long as nothing has happened we assume it is all working and maybe there would be some random checks..

      Have you seen any issues on your side – meaning what is the % of variance in the weight the trucker’s docs delcare to what your weighbridge slip says..??

      As regards the Maersk initiative, I think it is at least a step in the right direction and there could be some visibility of the packing methods of customers in a certain trade route/lane..

  2. If more than 1ton of diffrence in declaration
    Then fine them with 100$ per ton for the whole lot in container
    And after that for the same consignee penalty will be doubled after every attempt
    In second time make it $200 per ton
    In third time make it $400 per ton.
    In fourth time $800 per ton. And so on


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