September 20 - Earlier today the IMO agreed a draft amendment making container-weighing verification mandatory.

The IMO Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers accepted the compromise proposals by shipping firms and governments to provide for two independent methods for the verification of container weights.

The draft amendments will now be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval with a view to subsequent adoption.

The Sub-Committee also agreed related draft guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo, regarding verified container weights. The draft guidelines will also be forwarded to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval.

The revised draft amendments would add new paragraphs to SOLAS regulation VI/2 Cargo information to require the shipper of a container to verify the gross mass of the cargo carried in a container, taking into account the guidelines on verification of gross mass; and to ensure that the verified gross mass is stated in the shipping document. The packed container should not be loaded onto the ship if the verified gross mass has not been provided or obtained.

The draft guidelines provide detailed recommendations on verifying the gross weight, which may be achieved by either weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified equipment; or by weighing all packages and cargo items and adding the tare mass (mass of an empty container) to the sum of the single masses.

The Sub-Committee agreed that an exemption to the requirements would apply when containers carried on a chassis or trailer are driven on or off a ro-ro ship engaged in short international voyages.

Prior to the discussions the two sides of the supply chain had been trading blows and the European Shippers Council (ESC) issued a statement earlier today, which stated that it considers that these "measures do not add anything to safety of containers at sea in the immediate (sic) and in the future.

"The only measure that would have helped immediately to improve safety is to ensure shipowners do take into due consideration during the process the shippers' verified information on weighing to replace the booking one."

ESC added that: "These measures to enter into force in July 2016 - if approved in 2014 - will only add to extra costs and administrative burden to shippers around the world with consequences to global supply chains."