Offshore InjuryBlog

Maritime Industry Proposes Mandatory Weighing of Loads

Several representatives of the maritime industry proposed legislation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on June 20 that would require ports and ships to weigh loaded containers before shipping them out. Current regulations under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Seas (SOLAS) dictate that the shipper who loads goods into a container must provide an accurate weight declaration, but the sponsors of the proposed legislation argue that shippers are not currently fulfilling their responsibilities.

The proposal was submitted by several different countries and several different maritime groups. The cosponsors are Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.S., BIMCO international shipping association, the International Association of Ports and Harbors, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Transport Workers' Federation and the World Shipping Council. In presenting their proposed bill, the cosponsors argued that with no legally enforced requirement to weigh loaded containers, shippers provide loose estimates at best, oftentimes exceeding their declared weights.

This practice is extremely hazardous and can result in needless injuries or even deaths for maritime industry workers. Overloaded containers can snap cables, topple cranes, drop cargo, topple cargo stacks or even tip trucks or damage bridges and roadways. Any one of these problems could cause injuries to workers, not to mention extensive damage to port infrastructure.

To remedy this problem, the newly proposed legislation would create a legal requirement for shippers to provide accurate container weight declarations and for ports and ships to carry a weight verification certificate obtained by personally weighing the containers. The cosponsors believe that this is the only way to ensure that the actual weight of a container is known before it is stowed on a vessel for transport.

Peter Hichliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said that he and his supporters 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."

Torben Skaanild, Secretary General of Bimco, said, "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."

The maritime attorneys at Arnold & Itkin have long been aware of the dangers presented by overloaded and undeclared container weights. We advocate for the passing of the legislation and hope that its implementation will prevent countless unnecessary injuries and deaths. The IMO Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods Solid Cargos and Containers will review the legislation in September, at which time we hope it will be passed into law.

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