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When and where must an export container be weighed..??

genoaWeighing of containers has been a bone of contention for many years for many shipping lines and the arguments for and against continue..

Below is the latest article from Lloyds Loading List which raises the question..

“Where in the transport or supply chain should the export container be weighed and the actual weight ascertained”..??

What do the readers of this blog think about it..?? What is your consensus on where the box must be weighed..??

My personal view is that the shipper or their packing warehouse must weigh the box and issue a weight confirmation before the container is taken into the port.. That way, the shipper or their packing warehouse are confirming that they have weighed the box and they must be held liable in case of any misdeclaration..

This is especially important since the port equipment doesn’t seem to be capable of producing accurate weights when it is weighed as mentioned in this post and this way there won’t be any delays at the port for the weighing..

There were discussions in this blog about the struggle with the misdeclaration of container weights and the consequences of the misdeclaration of container weights..

Although the shippers have rejected calls for mandatory weighing of containers, I think in everyone’s interest, this is the best option as such misdeclarations could lead to loss of human life, loss of assets (ships, containers), loss of business which will prove  costly to the various economies..

A weighty problem

The industry needs to urgently consider the implications of proposed new regulations on the declaration of container weight – how and where this can be verified in the transport chain

When the MSC Napoli ran aground off the UK south coast in January 2007 (pictured), 137 out of the 600 containers it was carrying on deck were at least 10% heavier or lighter than had been declared on the ship’s manifest.

In another high-profile accident, the capsizing of the Xpress Container Line vessel Deneb during unloading at Algeciras in June 2011, an even higher percentage of boxes – 64 out of 150 – were not laden as recorded. Richard Marks, director of the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), reminded delegates of these startling statistics in a thought-provoking seminar during last week’s Multimodal 2013 exhibition.“The tendency is to assume that the weight on the booking form is the actual weight – this must account for a large proportion of misdeclarations. There’s human error as well,” Marks said.

The degree of  “variation”, as he described it – error ratios of 22% in the case of the Napoli and 42% for theDeneb – were no surprise. The question for Marks was what the industry was going to do about it.

The issue is becoming more urgent, the seminar heard, because within three years shippers could be required by law to verify weight before containers are loaded on board ship.

Parties to the Safety of Life at Sea convention agreed an amendment in September 2012 stipulating that a container should either be weighed in its entirety, or its contents weighed separately and added to the tare weight of the box.

Marks said the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would consider the amendment in September this year and would probably adopt it in December 2014, leading to an entry into force in July 2016.

“Where can we do this in the transport chain?” he asked. The verified weight would need to be stated in the shipping document, although because this was prepared before the vessel was loaded may raise practical difficulties.

Marks said weighing containers at the gatehouse on entry to the port was difficult and expensive, and could impact especially on just-in-time deliveries.

Verifying weight on the lifting equipment itself was not guaranteed to be accurate, and self-geared ships often served terminals without dedicated equipment, he pointed out.

Giving the forwarder’s perspective, Robert Windsor, manager of trade services at the British International Freight Association (BIFA), said everyone in the supply chain had obligations and responsibilities, but if one person got it wrong, there were likely consequences for all the rest. “We must prevent bottlenecks in the supply chain,” he stressed.

Forwarders loaded many sea freight containers, but operated differently according to whether they were acting as agent, consolidator, intermediary or loader, Windsor said. He believed most BIFA members would prefer aggregating weights of cargo rather than weighing laden boxes, and was pleased that this seemed to be acceptable to the IMO.

Echoing Marks’s earlier comments, Windsor said that verification at the port would create a pinch-point. However, targeted spot checks would be necessary as inaccurate container weights were part of a much wider problem involving Customs and other authorities.

Chris Welsh, director of global and European policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said: “A small part of the market is not doing things correctly – not through malice, but in ignorance of what’s required.”

An FTA survey had suggested it was not weight, but inappropriately stowed and secured boxes that caused most problems.

Consultant Bill Brassington, who advises the International Labour Organisation on workplace safety, commented that shipping lines must review their booking procedures to make sure that containers declared as heavy were correctly placed.

“The person who places the cargo in the unit must be responsible for declaring mass of that cargo,” he said.

The issue was not just one of accidents at sea, Brassington said. Stacks of containers could be unstable, or they could fall from spreaders. The safety of truck drivers, train operators and terminal operators was at stake, as well as that of seafarers.


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Is it possible to weight the containers at transit port in case where customer thinks that shipper has mis-declared the weight for each container


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