International Maritime Organization (IMO) has received a formal proposal co-sponsored by a broad array of industry organizations, labour and governments to require loaded containers to be weighed to determine their actual weight. The proposal was submitted by Denmark, The Netherlands, the United States, BIMCO, International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Transport Workers’ Federation, and World Shipping Council (WSC). IMO’s Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers will consider the proposal at its next meeting in September.

“Misdeclared container weights are a recurring safety problem on shore, on ships, and on roadways. It is time to fix that problem. We are pleased that there is such a broad cross-section of industry and government agreement on a specific and effective remedy,” said Torben Skaanild, Secretary General of BIMCO. “The co-sponsors of this proposal are recommending a legal requirement that port terminal operators and ships must have a verified container weight in order to export a loaded container. This will protect workers in the port, on the ship, and other cargo owners against the various risks created by misdeclared containers,” said Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of ICS. “Major industry players dealing with the handling of containers have chosen to make the transport of the “box” even safer than before.”

“For years, the U.S. has required all its export containers to be weighed. This has not impaired supply-chain efficiency, but has improved safety. The technology exists, and it should be a universal, required practice,” said Dr. Geraldine Knatz, President of IAPH and Executive Director of Port of Los Angeles.

“The governments that have co-sponsored this proposal have been leaders at IMO on the issue of maritime safety. Industry and labour are very pleased to have their support in the efforts to amend the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and establish an effective solution to this safety issue,” said Christopher Koch, President and CEO of WSC.

SOLAS currently requires the shipper to provide an accurate container weight declaration, but this requirement is often not met, and is not enforced by SOLAS parties. In fact, there is no requirement to actually weigh a loaded container. To remedy the problem, the co-sponsors propose a legal requirement, not only that the shipper provides an accurate weight declaration, but that the port facility and the ship have a verification certificate obtained by weighing the container. This will ensure that the actual weight of all loaded containers is received prior to stowing the container onto a vessel for export.