Who verifies the cargo weight in a container and where..??

image for who verifiesThis 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 :

  1. Shipper books cargo with shipping line at which stage a cargo weight is indicated for the line to make the booking..
  2. Shipper packs the container and dispatches it to the container terminal..
  3. Container terminal receives it and uses the weight data provided by the shipper and updates it internal system (some terminals still do this manually)..
  4. This data becomes the basis for the preparation of the load list and stowage plan for the ship that will carry this container..
  5. 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..
  6. Shipping line captures the details according to the bill of lading instructions..
  7. Depending on the shipping line, generally an allowance of 1-2 tons per container is given on the weight variation..
  8. 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..image for container weight
  9. 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..
  10. 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.. 

image for container overweightQuestion 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..??

image for truck at terminalMy 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..??



*** End of Article ***

12 thoughts on “Who verifies the cargo weight in a container and where..??”

  1. Hi Hariesh,
    This is a good topic, container weighment is a must at the entry point of the Port. My response is in the context of exports from India.

    1) Over weight containers, some shippers with low value cargo ( stones / commodities / raw material ) they can save Over Weight surcharge from the Carriers & load illegal amounts of weight. All this happens with the knowledge of Shipper /Transporter / CFS operator.

    There is customs notification which says who’s responsible for confirming the correct weight of the containers

    Major ports in India are not following these instructions giving the reason that the port gates are already congested implementation of fixing weigh bridge on the gates will congest the port even more. Yes, that justifies containers loaded from India can be over weight can cause damage to the containers / ships/ seafarers / terminal operators / trucker in receiving countries / handlers at consignee warehouse.

    Some containers also weigh less than declared cargo. This point you didn’t explore.. Yes these are the containers which are tampered on their way to the ports which can take 8 hours to 3 days transit from CFS or factory depending on the port congestion so container doors are removed, cargoes pilfered / I also heard that new seals with same numbers & markings can also be made & cargo removed. All this can happen if transporter is compromised ( may be the driver ) . This I also heard happens in China for their exports while they counter the weight with stones or concrete in bags etc, so the risk is limited only to the buyer not all the people handling these containers.

    2) Overweight containers are loaded on the ships as per declared weight on the shipping bill by shipper & EIR is made with the same information provided to the port, it doesn’t matter what weighbridge – weighing slip say.

    Solutions provided by you the best one
    1) At the port gate
    2) Gantry cranes with digital weighing system which should be computerised & monitored. Data stored subjected to simple audit can tell what is the declared weight & what is the actual weight on the ship & in a particular container.
    3) Follow the customs notification & regulation

  2. This is a great blog and discussion. In my opinion, the responsibility to give a verified container weight sits with the people that pack the container. They control the cargo going into the container. They should be responsible for ensuring the cargo is safe. Giving an accurate weight declaration is a critical part of this. The problem is there is not currently good, low cost equipment for weighing containers outside of terminals. But what if there was? Would shippers use it?

  3. The container weight is checked at the port when the crane lifts & keeps the container in the vessel.

    • Dear Sir,
      In our opinion the shipper/exporter is the correct party to check the weight of the stuffed containers prior to moving the same from shipper’s factory to load port. Since the shipper is sole responsible person with knowledge of what stacking material used the net weight of the cargo and so on. On many occasion the shipper stuff garbage/rejection/waste showing reason as stacking material used, These details are not shown in the import documents resulting into : when the cargo reaches at port of delivery the same are checked on weighbridge at CY and further result into excess weight. Customs recover customs duty considering these stacking material comparing with import material value. The importer lands up paying customs for which no material received. by him. These is happening on regular basis at Kandla, Mundra, JNPT etc.
      KInd regards
      Jayant AWad

  4. Spot on post Hariesh. The real concern from my perspective is if the warehouse at origin is misdeclaring the load then you could run into problems when delivering the container to your facility. If your trucker has to pass a weigh station and you find out the container is overweight, you will get stuck with annoying fines and large rehandling costs. It is very important to work with your contact at origin to ensure that the container is being loaded properly (blocked and braced so it isn’t overweight on the front or rear truck axle), and weights are recorded as accurately as possible.


  6. Dear Hariesh,
    This issue is a real pain point and as you mentioned IMO is concerned (they want to secure loading of vessels) as well as IAPH (they want to avoid decrease of capacity/productivity in port). Checking as gate in is a good point but in addition to scanner as recommanded by ISPS you may have an over capacity at gates and an issue for port’s productivity.
    getting the right weight at gate in is also too late for shipping line, as , as you mentioned, loading plan is already built. I agree 1 ton difference between SI and weighting is not an issue (especially for new huge container vessel, which accept heavy weight even on deck), but in case of more difference, then too late to change the loading plan.
    But I think basic question is why to weight ?
    I don’t think misdeclaration is an issue for the structure of the vessel (no study with firm conclusion about this), and in addition captains are ‘weitghting’ their ship before each departure.
    lashing may be the issue, but thks to new vessel, lashing bridge, and new lashing (cross from one row to the other), it may also secure.
    Last but not least (many incident within a famous company I know), real misdeclaration or error are commun : Si with 5 when it is a 25 tons containers, or client given the wieght for 10 containers when it should be understood for one only.
    that’s main issues I know (with some damages to containers and ships) but again it was error and lashing was good but not enough for such weight.
    perhaps another member for this great website have another point of view and experiences

  7. i think there is a difefernce between those that deliberately mis-declare weights and where there is a ty-po
    i feel it is the shipping line that should add the tare weights to the container. Sometimes when pre advising hundreds of comtainers and having to also add the tare weight to each container the posibility of misdeclaring is a posibbility. lines should view this differently instead of penalizing. ultimately the customer should be responsible for his cargo weigh and the line for adding the tare weight. A posible solution could be that the navis system be designed where ther cargo weigh is declared and the system automatically calculates the tare weight.

  8. Well….agreed not all containers can be weighed at the entry of terminals due to various reasons, I feel a random check would curb the menace and heavy penalties should be levied on defaulters.

  9. Hariesh, with reference to your points raised and the answers you pointed out, we also have the Navis system in which the weights are inserted when the containers arrive at the rail Terminals, for final destination being the load Ports. These weights are taken off the weigh bridge at the Terminal and thereafter updated accordingly. I am sure that these weights are what the Port is seeing on their side prior to loading and also the shipping lines when they receive their loading details of containers available at the stack. On the road containers, there are not much pre-checks one can obtain prior to containers entering the Port. The only source of a double check system the road containers will have is the packing station weights. So there are many challenges that I notice on weight discrepancies. Are the weigh bridges diligently collaborated to get the correct weights ?

    Would like to hear what the other readers have come across on this as well.

    • I have an question to get clarified for FCL shipment.

      Gross weight declared by shipper in the B/L instruction should be Product weight + packing weight or product weight + packing weight + container weight Tare weight. which one is correct ?

      Many of the shippers does this mistake while preparing the B/L instruction and ultimately it ends up with the mis declaration.

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