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Container weighing debate goes on and on

June 25 - Last week saw the European Shipping Council (ESC) release a statement which included strong disagreement with the widespread belief in the shipping industry that weighing laden containers should be a requirement at terminals.

Container shipping lines and labour organisations in Denmark, Holland and the USA, have been joined by bodies such as the International Chamber of Shipping, the World Shipping Council and the International Transport Workers' Federation, all of whom want to make it a legal requirement enforced under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) safety rules. 

The formal proposal to the IMO asks that body to rule in favour of a requirement to accurately weigh loaded containers. Citing safety concerns the IMO proposal is asking that the port facility and the ship have a weight verification certificate obtained by officially weighing the container. 

But the ESC disagrees, saying the proposal to have all containers weighed before loading is a "false remedy for an ill-defined disease." 

While misdeclaration of container weights has been blamed for accidents onboard, as well as in ports and on highways, the ESC does not believe that this is the major cause. 

"We admit that misdeclaration of weights needs our attention, but oppose the idea that it's the biggest threat to the safety of workers in the supply chain. If the sector is truly looking for a safer supply chain, all parties should take their responsibility," said the ESC statement. 

The ESC asserted that "misdeclared" container weights are a small risk factor compared to more important safety concerns such as the dearth of procedures for lashing, ship maintenance, and stowing. 

The council voiced doubts that the IMO was the proper agency to regulate container safety issues, because "poor stuffing is a problem for all modes of transport, not solely the maritime industry," and that a better option was to update the voluntary UNECE/ILO guidelines for container loading. The ESC also noted that there is already an IMO regulation that states that shippers should correctly declare the weights of shipping containers.

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