This was a question from one of the readers (Julia)..
Question 1: Where and who verifies the cargo weight in a container (shipper just declare it? nobody checks after?)
The generalized process of containerized shipments in most countries goes something like this :
- Shipper books cargo with shipping line at which stage a cargo weight is indicated for the line to make the booking..
- Shipper packs the container and dispatches it to the container terminal..
- Container terminal receives it and uses the weight data provided by the shipper and updates it internal system (some terminals still do this manually)..
- This data becomes the basis for the preparation of the load list and stowage plan for the ship that will carry this container..
- Shipper sends the bill of lading instructions (Shipping Instructions) to the shipping line which includes the weight of the cargo.. This weight might or might not be the same as was indicated at the time of booking..
- Shipping line captures the details according to the bill of lading instructions..
- Depending on the shipping line, generally an allowance of 1-2 tons per container is given on the weight variation..
- If the shipping lines’ processes are stringent, they will notice if there is any massive variation between the booking weight and weight submitted via the bill of lading instructions..
- If the weight declared on the shipping instruction is more than the allowance given, the shipping line will notify the client and possibly also penalise them for this misdeclaration..
- But the real variation in weight will be between the actual weight of the cargo packed in the container and the weight of the cargo declared when the container is brought into the terminal as per point 3 & 4 above..
So to answer the 1st question – based on all the articles that have been written on this subject and the discussions that have been happening at the IMO, Shipping Lines and the various Shippers Councils around the world, there is still no resolution on how the verification of the container weights must happen and it may be assumed that currently no one verifies the weight declared by the shippers on a consistent basis..
Question 2 : How come “overweight” containers are stowed on the ship?
The answer to this question is quite simple.. As mentioned in point 4 above, the ships planners and the port plan the stowage and loading of the ship based on the data provided by the shippers and entered into the port system (either directly by the shippers using systems such as Navis or by the ports manually)..
The answer to the 2nd question would be – since there is no way for these weights to be verified, they are unaware of which containers are overweight and which ones are not, so they are loaded according to the stowage plan..
Is there a solution..??
My personal view is that the BEST place to verify the cargo weight in a container and identify weight discrepancies would be the CY at the receiving port terminal or rail terminal..
The weight must be verified when the container enters the terminal and any variances must be immediately be rectified before the incorrect weight is entered into the system.. Any point after that might be already too late for any verification..
This means that all ports/container terminals across the world should have this weighing facility.. I don’t think that this infrastructure development or regulation requiring such development and process is impossible to implement..
There has been a great level of success with the implementation of the ISPS regulation (read https://www.shippingandfreightresource.com/what-is-isps-and-why-is-it-charged-part-1/ and https://www.shippingandfreightresource.com/what-is-isps-and-why-is-it-charged-part-2/) and I don’t see a reason why such regulations cannot be imposed to sort out this misdeclaration issue..
You may also be interested in reading about several articles and discussions on this blog about the consequences of misdeclaration of container weights and its impact..
Do you have any other suggestions which you think will work in controlling this serious misdeclaration and overweight issue..??