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..
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..
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..