As local and international industry bodies continue their efforts to establish regulation to help mitigate further risks in the shipping industry, incidents such as the collapse of the MOL Comfort vessel that split into two on 17 June 2013, reiterates the urgency for the implementation of a global regulation to monitor and control the accurate weighing or declaration of weight of a container when boarding a ship.
“Although the cause of the breakdown is still uncertain, experts suspect that contributing factors may have been bad weather, aggressive ocean conditions or overloading. Either way, it certainly does remind shipping companies of the importance of adopting the correct shipping practices and the need for stricter regulation that will help to mitigate risks within the shipping industry,” says Penny Henley, Logistics Manager at Blue Strata, South Africa’s only integrated end-to-end import and working capital specialist.
In December 2010, the World Shipping Council (WSC) reported that it had jointly urged the establishment of an international regulation, requiring that all loaded containers be weighed at the marine port facility before stowage aboard a vessel. Due to objections by certain delegations, further discussions on this matter have been pushed to a correspondence group with another report due in September 2013.
“At this point, industry amendment requiring the accurate weighing or declaration of weight of a container may only come into effect as late as 2017,” explains Henley.
Locally, Henley says that it is difficult to ascertain whether the overloading of shipping containers is taking place. “Overloading in South Africa can only be identified when containers are sent to a weighbridge. Transporters face hefty fines if weights are declared incorrectly and if containers are not loaded correctly on the trailers”.
While the industry waits for the implementation of a container weight regulation, Henley emphasizes that shippers should abide by all necessary safety regulations. “Furthermore, shippers should know the maximum limitations for the container being used, even though there is no formal regulation for measuring and declaring weight when boarding a ship.”
Overloading of containers is a serious concern around the world, and could lead to issues such as risks to the lives of the crew, damage to ships, collapsed container stacks, cargo liability claims and so forth.
Until further industry regulation is implemented, Henley is adamant that shipping companies need to be increasingly responsible and aware of the associated risks in the shipping industry.