VGM – less than 15% of IMO Member States have issued guidelines to enforce container weighing

VGMWith under one month to go until the SOLAS verified gross mass (VGM) regulation enters in force, less than 15% of International Maritime Organization (IMO) Member States have issued guidelines on how they plan to enforce the amendment, according to the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA).

The amendment, which will enter into force on July 1, 2016, will require shippers to obtain and declare the VGM for each packed container before it can be loaded onto a ship.

Captain Richard Brough, technical advisor to ICHCA International, said: “As July 1 approaches we see an increasing number of terminal operators announcing the service options they will offer to shippers to facilitate determining the VGM of export containers.”

Despite the efforts of lifting equipment suppliers, carriers and forwarders to engage positively and identify the most appropriate way to comply, Mr Brough said that sadly, where compliance is a shared responsibility, communication between all the different parties has too often been “acrimonious rather than collaborative”.

As a result, contingency planning is now crucial for all stakeholders to avoid a potentially disastrous impact on the container supply chain, he added.

It was suggested at a recent ICHCA seminar that the key to successful implementation of the VGM requirements is close communication and co-operation between governments and all industry stakeholders.

Mike Yarwood, claims expert at TT Club, said: “Behavioural change through all aspects of the supply chain is required. Weight is a relatively small element of broader initiatives to engender safety and improve operational performance.” Source: Port Strategy

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SAMSA Guidelines on the implementation of SOLAS VI Regulation 2 Amendment: Verification of the Gross Mass of Packed Containers

SAMSA logoThe following amended marine notice – click here, issued by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), provides guidance for the implementation of SOLAS Chapter VI Regulation 2 regarding the Verification of the Gross Mass of packed containers. It outlines the Republic of South Africa’s guidelines for the implementation of the mandatory amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter VI, Part A, Regulation 2. The SOLAS requirements regarding the Verification of the Gross Mass of packed containers carrying cargo (SOLAS regulation VI/2) will enter into force in July 2016. Amendments to this marine notice include:

  • The implementation of an enforcement tolerance.
  • Containers that are loaded on a ship before 1 July 2016 and are transhipped on or after 1 July 2016.

Source: SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

US will not delay weighing rule

Verified Gross MassThe US Coast Guard has told American shippers that it will not delay implementation of the SOLAS Chapter VI amendment requiring containers to have a verified gross mass before they can be shipped.

The US Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), representing most of the country’s agricultural and forestry products exporters and thus accounting for a huge slice of US shipping exports, argued that confusion over the VGM could lead to business being lost and threatened supply chain turmoil.

It called for a one-year delay in implementation of the new rules, due to take effect on 1st July, to allow time for government and industry to work together to solve the problems. AgTC cited SOLAS Article VIII(b)(vii)(2), which allows for a Competent Authority [in this case the USCG] to give notice to the IMO of an intention to delay implementation of any SOLAS regulation for up to one year at any point before the entry into force.

However, at a special public meeting convened on 18th February at the offices of the Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, DC, Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, the USCG’s Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, said a delay to implementation would not be entertained.

Thomas pointed out that that the VGM is not a US regulation or law, but arises out of international agreement within IMO. As such it will be enforced by flag states, where ships are registered, and any signal that the US was unready or unwilling to comply with the new rule would be interpreted by flag state authorities to mean that loading US export containers on their ships is unsafe. He added that most US exports are carried on foreign flag ships.

This should be the end of the matter. However, the IMO mechanisms allow the US (or any other IMO member-state) to give notice any time up to 30th June. The US could also introduce an “AOB” paper at the next IMO MSC meeting scheduled for May.

At the meeting last week, shippers were reassured that if they used “Method 2” (VGM by calculation), they are legally entitled to rely on the container’s CSC plate as providing an accurate empty tare weight. Source: World Cargo News

Felixstowe to offer Container Weighing Service

Container_crane_and_spreader

Picture: Wikipedia

The Port of Felixstowe has confirmed that it will offer a container weighing service to ensure UK shippers are able to comply with the new SOLAS regulations that come into effect on 1 July 2016

The new SOLAS Chapter VI regulation requiring the shipper (or other named party in the Bill of Lading – normally a freight forwarder/NVOCC) – to supply the shipping line with a verified gross mass (VGM) declaration before the container can be loaded aboard the ship comes into force on 1st July. As widely reported, there is widespread concern that shippers will not be ready.

Commenting on the new service that Felixstowe will provide, Stephen Abraham, the port’s COO, said: “We have met with many customers and from their feedback it is clear that there is still a lot of uncertainty amongst exporters about the new rules.

“The rules have the potential to cause significant disruption to export supply chains. To help avoid this, we have decided to provide a service where export containers can be weighed at the port before being loaded. We will provide further details about how the weighing service will work in good time to ensure all exporters can be compliant by the time the new rules come into force.”

The service at the port will be available to containers arriving either by road or rail. This is important as, through its railheads, Felixstowe is the UK’s largest intermodal rail terminal; 40% of all laden export containers arrive at the port by rail.

To provide the weighing service, Felixstowe will use a spreader twistlock-based system, although the supplier of the system and the number of RTG and intermodal RMG spreaders that will be equipped with it has not been confirmed.

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is the responsible authority for the VGM as regards UK containerised export shipments, requires all weighing equipment used to provide a VGM, whether by Method 1 or Method 2, to be calibrated to within +/- 0.1% of the true mass of the loaded container (Method 1) or by calcuation based on the sum weights of the individual cargo items being packed and associated dunnage, lashing chains, etc (Method 2).

When, at the end of 2010, the International Chamber of Shipping first launched its campaign for all containers to be weighed before ocean carriage, it was assumed that the weighing would take place in ports – naturally, as ports are where most container lifting equipment is based.

However, port operators – including, and not least, Felixstowe – successfully resisted this, which ultimately resulted in IMO formulating Method 2. While the road to IMO arriving at Method 1 and Method 2 is “history,” the key point is that port operators, freed of a legal obligation to weigh loaded export containers, are thereby free to offer a Method 1 weighing service on a commercial basis.

Irrespective of the technology employed, there are several issues around port weighing. What happens if, for example, when the port [any port, not just Felixstowe] weighs the export container for the purpose of providing the VGM and finds that the weight made the container illegal for road carriage to the port? Does the port have a legal obligation to inform the road traffic authorities [the police in the UK]; or is the onus on the shipping line, whose customer the “offending” shipper/NVOCC is?

That information is also “historic,” in the sense that in order to weigh the overloaded container in the port, it must be assumed that the truck arrived safely at the port, and that particular (unique) illegal truck trip to the export port has gone forever. The remaining problem, however, is that the VGM provided by the port may indicate that the weight of the container makes it illegal for on-carriage by road or rail in the port of unloading.

Asked to comment on this by WorldCargo News, Paul Davey, Head of Corporate Affairs, Hutchison Ports (UK), made a crucial point. “As regards legality for road carriage in all possible overseas destinations, we [at Felixstowe] would not know, for example, whether the container will leave the port of destination or is unstuffed in the port. If it leaves the port [without being unstuffed] we won’t know whether the on-carriage would be by road, rail or any other mode, so there is nothing we could do.”

This is key as it throws the real responsibility for enforcing the VGM on the carriers, who demanded compulsory weighing in the first place. They will be under a legal obligation not to accept a loaded container unless it has VGM documentation.

It follows logically that carriers know the VGM mass of all loaded containers they ship. If, on the way to destination from the port of import, due to gross overloading of the container, the truck jackknifes or overturns, with all the safety risks that entails, the carrier could be liable and open to criminal prosecution.

Thus, there can be no question of “shipper appeasement,” but it could end up in a lawyer’s free-for-all involving anyone providing the VGM if it transpires that the VGM data were incorrect. Suppose, for example, the carrier relied on VGM data provided on a commercial basis by the port of export and it transpired, following a road accident investigation in the country of import that the real weight exceeded the VGM and likely caused the accident.

As to the commercial possibilities for ports providing a VGM service, Felixstowe has not given any information on the price it will charge, but (by way of example) Yarimca in Turkey is advertising US$12 to weigh a container, according to its tariff notice.

Policy responses by port operators will vary enormously according to local context and assessment of risk and benefit. In New York/New Jersey – where loaded containers are mosly imports – Maher Terminals has advised customers that loaded export containers will not be accepted after the July 1st deadline whitout a VGM in advance, as part of the booking process.

PSA Antwerp, which is also offering a VGM service, has stated that it may, at its discretion, “strip and restuff a container so that it complies with the SOLAS requirements. The customer will pay an appropriate compensation to PSA for any such stripping/restuffing of a container and/or determining its VGM.”

The new SOLAS Ch VI imposes no obligation on terminals to weigh containers they unload. All the same, as regards imports, PSA Antwerp says: “If PSA loads a container onto a truck, it can never be held liable for additional expenses and/or fines associated with the (excess) weight of the container/truck combination.

“Any such additional expenses and/or fines will never be borne by PSA and the customer will pay an appropriate compensation to PSA for any such additional expenses and/or fines incurred by it and/or for determining the weight of the container/truck combination.” Source: WorldCargoNews

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Freight Forwarders and 3PL’s to bear the burden of IMO Box Weighing Rules

Container weighingThe responsibility for verifying the gross weight of loaded containers under next year’s new box-weighing rules will in many cases rest with freight forwarders, logistics operators or NVOCCs, according to freight transport insurance specialist TT Club.

Welcoming the initiative of the World Shipping Council (WSC) in its recent publication of guidelines to the industry in relation to implementing the SOLAS requirements that become mandatory on 1 July 2016, TT Club noted that unlike the CTU Code, which forensically seeks to identify the chain of responsibility for everyone involved in the movement of freight, the amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) mandating the verification of gross mass of container overtly only names the ‘shipper’, the ‘master’ and the ‘terminal representative’, and – by implication – the competent authorities.

TT Club said the complex nature of logistics means that the term ‘shipper’ may encompass a range of people involved in the contracting, packing and transporting of cargo. However, as stated in the WSC guidance, it said the key commercial relationship in question is with the person whose name is placed on the ocean carrier’s bill of lading.

“Thus, in many cases, the responsibility for actual ‘verified’ declaration will rest with a freight forwarder, logistics operator or NVOC. This means that often reliance will have to be placed on others to have adequate certified methods to provide verified gross mass – particularly for consolidation business,” TT Club said.

It noted that of course many suppliers of homogenous shipments will already have advanced systems, which merely require some form of national certification, adding: “Apart from having a sustainable method by which the gross mass is verified, the shipper also needs to communicate it (‘signed’ meaning that there is an accountable person) in advance of the vessel’s stow plan being prepared.

“The information will be sent by the shipper to the carrier, but with joint service arrangements there may be a number of carriers involved, with one taking responsibility to consolidate the manifest information, in addition to communication with the terminal.”
It said the ‘master’ comprises a number of functions within the carrier’s organisation.

“Implicit in the SOLAS amendment is that the carrier sets in place processes that ensure that verified gross mass is available and used in planning the ship stow,” TT Club said. “Arguably, each carrier will need to amend systems and processes to capture ‘verified’ information.

“However, the simplest might be to amend the booking process, so that the gross mass information is left blank in the system until ‘verified’ data are available. This will be effective if it is clearly understood by all partner lines and terminals with whom the line communicates.”

TT Club said the explicit obligation of the master was simply that he shall not load a container for which a verified gross mass is not available. “This does not mean that one with a verified gross mass is guaranteed to be loaded, since that would derogate from the traditional rights of a master,” the insurance specialist added.

Recognising the pivotal nature of the port interface, it noted that the ‘terminal representative’ has been drawn into the new regulation as a key recipient of information for ship stow planning “and, critically, in a joint and several responsibility not to load on board a ship if a verified gross mass is not available”.

It added: “There has been considerable debate as to whether terminals need to position themselves to be able to weigh containers, not least because of the cost of creating appropriate infrastructure, and amending systems and procedures, with uncertain return on investment. In addition there are commonly incidences of containers packed at the port, in which case the terminal activities could include assisting the shipper in producing the verified gross mass.

“The SOLAS amendment places responsibility on national administrations to implement appropriate standards for calibration and ways of certifying. The overtly named parties rely on this to work smoothly and, preferably, consistently on a global basis.”
TT Club said clarity of such processes needed to be matched by consistency in enforcement. “Talk of ‘tolerances’ is disingenuous,” it said. “SOLAS calls for accuracy. Everyone appreciates that some cargo and packing material may be hygroscopic, thereby potentially increasing mass during the journey, but that need not mask fraudulent activity, nor entice over-zealous enforcement.”

It said the UK Marine Guidance Note may be instructive here, stating that enforcement action will only be volunteered where the difference between documented and actual weight exceeds a threshold. TT Club concluded: “It is suggested that key measures of success of the revised SOLAS regulation will include not only safety of containerised movements, but also free movement of boxes through all modes of surface transport, and a shift in behaviour and culture throughout the unit load industry.”

Vietnam Tightens Container-Weighing Rules

High quality 3D render shipping container during transportIn a bid to tackle overweight containers at its ports, Vietnam is seeking to address this issue with domestic legislation on container weighing practices. This is in contrast to the International Maritime Organisation, which had agreed on an amended rule that would see shipping containers being weighed before they are loaded onto ships – a rule which will come into effect in 2016.

Weighbridges have since been installed at Vietnamese ports, container yards and even highways to monitor weights of containers for both importing and exporting. A new law was endorsed in 2014 by the Vietnamese government that limited the total weight of 20 and 40ft containers to a maximum of 20 tonnes, including the weight of the container itself.

Containers found to violate the weight limits are likely to incur a fine. Source: Port Technology International

New CTU Code – IMO Approves Container Weight Verification Requirement

containerThe Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the IMO has approved changes to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention that will require verification of container weights as a condition for loading packed export containers aboard ships.

Misdeclared container weights have been a long-standing problem for the transportation industry and for governments as they present safety hazards for ships, their crews, and other cargo on board, workers in the port facilities handling containers, and on roads. Misdeclaration of container weights also gives rise to customs concerns. The approved changes to the convention will enter into force in July 2016 upon final adoption by the MSC in November 2014. In order to assist supply chain participants’ and SOLAS contracting governments’ implementation of the container weight verification requirement, MSC also issued a MSC Circular with implementation guidelines.

MSC also approved a new Code of Practice for the Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTUs), including intermodal shipping containers. The new CTU Code, which will replace the current IMO/ILO/UNECE Guidelines for packing of CTU, has already been approved by the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and will now go to the International Labour Organization (ILO) for approval. The CTU Code provides information and guidance to shippers, packers and other parties in the international supply chains for the safe packing, handling and transport of CTUs.

Of particular interest for regulatory authorities is Chapter 4 – “Chains of responsibility and information” which deals with the parties responsible for the provision of information and other security and regulatory requirements concerning containers as they are transported across the supply chain.

The World Shipping Council (WSC), whose members represent about 90 percent of global containership capacity, has been a leading advocate for the container weight verification requirements and has worked cooperatively with the IMO for over seven years to see them materialize. WSC has also participated in the group of experts that developed the new CTU Code.

“In taking these decisions, the IMO has demonstrated its continuing leadership in trying to ensure the safe transportation of cargo by the international shipping industry,” said WSC President & CEO, Chris Koch. “We congratulate the IMO Secretary General and the IMO member governments for developing and approving these measures that, when properly implemented and enforced, should provide for long-needed improvement to maritime safety. The SOLAS amendments and related implementation guidelines regarding container weight verification represent a collaborative effort that we were pleased to be a part of and we look forward to final adoption of the amendments in November 2014.”

The new CTU and supporting material can be accessed at the UNECE website here. Also See the World Shipping Councils webpage here for chronological information about the container weighing issue. Source: Maritime Executive

Preparing for legislation on verification of container weights

High quality 3D render shipping container during transportPort Technology International – The work by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), within the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), on the verification of container weights prior to loading on to a ship is progressing. Currently, expectations are that legislation will come into force in 2017 at the latest, and possibly in 2016.

Many terminal operators are concerned about how to comply with the upcoming legislation, and how it will impact on logistic flows in terminals.

One of the challenges facing terminals is how to weigh containers with little or no impact on operations. Transferring containers to separate weighing stations will affect productivity. Terminals are likely to need additional space and transportation capacity to cope effectively.

Solutions that weigh containers as part of existing logistic flows and operations will therefore deliver significant advantages for terminal operators.

Weighing alternatives

This article outlines technologies that are available for managing weighing or verifying weight. It should be noted that requirements for weight accuracy is not included in the current draft text from the IMO and will likely put further constraints on available options. The discussion here indicates what level of accuracy can be expected from the various options available.

Three different types of weighing or load measurement devices will be discussed: commonly available weigh bridges; load sensing devices in cranes and other lifting equipment and load sensing devices fitted to, or integrated into spreader twistlocks.

Weigh bridges

The first system that comes to mind when looking at weighing a container is the weigh bridge. Weigh bridges are a longestablished and recognised technology to measure the weight of a vehicle. When the weight of the container being carried by a vehicle is of interest, the tare weight of the vehicle must be deducted. The measuring accuracy of the weigh bridge is very high but the tare weight deduction process either introduces additional inaccuracies or becomes complicated and time consuming.

If a standard vehicle tare weight is used, the inaccuracy comes from such things as variations in fuel level, driver weight and the weight of miscellaneous materials also loaded in the vehicle. These may seem like minor aspects when considering a truck carrying a 40ft container, but it easily adds up to a few hundred kilos, thereby significantly affecting the accuracy of the container weighing process. The alternative to using a standard tare weight is to include weighing of the unloaded vehicle in the process. This will give an accurate vehicle tare weight and ultimately, an accurate container weight, but it adds steps to the process which takes time and uses terminal resources.

Using weigh bridges to weigh containers is likely to result in changes to the internal logistics of most existing terminals. All containers entering terminals by road would have to pass through the weighing station. The most critical factor in this scenario would be to have sufficient weigh bridges to avoid the bottlenecks and resulting congestion.

Containers arriving by train or sea (for transhipment) would have to be sent to a weighing station, a step which is uncommon in terminal logistics today. This additional step would tie transporting vehicles to specific containers for longer periods of time ultimately resulting in additional resources being needed to handle the same container volumes. Sufficient resources in terms of weigh bridges and transportation space therefore need to be allocated to avoid congestion
and delays.

Another situation which would require a specific process to be in place is where vehicles arrive at the terminal gate with two twenty-foot containers loaded. Weigh bridges can only determine combined weight. Because containers have to be weighed separately, this would imply a relatively complicated process involving not only the truck carrying the equipment but also terminal resources to facilitate the loading and unloading of the containers.

Load sensing devices in cranes or other lifting equipment

The second type of load measuring device is, in effect, several devices with common features. This group includes load sensors and devices on ship-to-shore (STS) cranes; rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) cranes; railmounted gantry (RMG) cranes; mobile harbour cranes; reach stackers; straddle carriers and so on. Most of the load sensing devices in this group are used for safety and/or stability systems, but the information is available to provide weight information with some limitations as outlined below.

The biggest question mark related to these systems is accuracy. Will the accuracy of these systems meet the requirements to come? The answer is most probably no, but until the requirements are defined, this option should be mentioned. Sensors in these devices are typically fitted to rope and chain anchors, in trollies or on booms. Distance from the container, and the dynamic effect this introduces adds to inaccuracy. These systems will typically have a measuring accuracy of plus or minus five percent. Source: Port Technology International

100% Scanning – Have all the Options been considered?

Port of Oakland - VertiTainer's  crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

Port of Oakland – VertiTainer’s crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

While the question of mandatory weighing of containers features high on the International Maritime Organisations’ (IMO) list of priorities, a recent post “Container Weighing – industry solution on the horizon“, reminded me of a solution which has been around for some time now, but for various reasons would appear to have been overlooked by authorities – or so it would appear. Readers and followers of this blog may well already have viewed the feature on VeriTainer’s gantry crane mounted radiation detection and identification system, called the VeriSpreader® – refer to the New generation NII technology page of this Blog.

The spreader is a device used for lifting containers and unitized cargo. The spreader used for containers has a locking mechanism at each corner that attaches the four corners of the container. A spreader can be used on a container crane, a straddle carrier and with any other machinery to lift containers. (Wikipedia)

The recent maritime disaster involving the breaking-in-half, and eventual sinking of the MOL Comfort gave rise to the question of overloaded container boxes. While government and international security-minded organisations have pursued methods to address breaches in the supply chain, it would seem that little ‘innovation’ has been applied to the problem – specifically in regard to minimizing the time and cost of routing containers via purpose-built inspection facilities.

At least three known radiation incidents have hit the headlines in recent times – namely Port of Genoa (2010), Port Elizabeth, New Jersey (Feb, 2013), and the most recent in the Port of Voltri (July, 2013). Each of these incidents warranted an emergency response from authorities with a consequential impact on Port Operations.  Unfortunately, advanced risk management systems and other security safeguards did not alert suspicion, allowing these ‘threats’ into the heart of the port, not to mention the radiation threat to port workers?

It could be argued that since the inception of government-led supply chain security, 2002 onwards, many of the world’s supply chains have built in ‘possible inspection’ into their export lead times. A trip to a purpose-built inspection facility will normally require diverting transport from its predestined journey to a land border crossing or seaport. Moreover, lack of predictability often causes delays with possible loss of business where ‘security’ measures delay the movement of cargo.

Several Customs and Border authorities have instituted ‘export-led’ compliance programmes which seek to create better regulatory awareness and expectation for shippers. While not without merit, these still impose an inherent cost to trade where in some instances, shipper’s are compelled to institute ISO-type security standards which for some require dedicated and skilled experts to entrench and maintain these throughout the organisation. So, while the development of increasing levels of compliance amongst supply chain operators will occur over time, what of government ‘Non-Intrusive’ inspection capability?

Port Technology International‘s Feb 2013 article – Future X-Ray Inspection Equipment to be based on Industry Standards – opined that “future developments in cargo screening are likely to follow a common innovation trajectory that is fostered by market needs and new technology, while being strengthened by existing intellectual property and evolving industry standards. Innovation is often perceived as a circular path beginning with customer needs that are identified by a technology developer. The developer then creates application technology in the form of products to meet those needs”.

Land and rail-based cargo screening technology has improved immensely over the last 10 years with improved safety (shielding), throughput (speed) and portability. Engineers have likewise realized the need to ‘fuse’ imaging and radiation threat detection technologies, all offering a more cost-effective package to the end-user. These are by and large the Customs and Border authorities worldwide who protect our territorial waters and ports. Yet, the approach remains ‘modality driven’ which has ensured a period of predictability for designers and manufacturers, not to mention their revenue streams. Given the container weighing – port radiation threats discussed earlier, perhaps it is time now for transport and enforcement authorities to consider technologies as developed by VeriTainer and Lasstec and define a specification for “100%” needs – could this be uniform? Not unlike Lasstec’s container-weighing solution that allows the weighing of containers during the loading cycle so not to disrupt the work flow, Veritainer’s VeriRAD solution uses a gantry crane ‘spreader’ to house its unique solution with specific emphasis to mitigate the threat of a ‘dirty bomb’.

 

Container Weighing – industry solution on the horizon

Click Picture for full report at porttechnology.org [Port Technology International – Container weighing device]

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is expected to make the weighing of sea containers mandatory. The purpose is to make the entire container supply chain safer. This regulation is expected to be issued through the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention) as a result of a number of accidents involving container losses and container stack collapses. The existing SOLAS regulation already obliges shippers to declare the correct container weights, but this is not always done. The new regulation is likely to require specifically that the container is actually weighed or calculated by reference to the contents, packing and securing materials and the tare weight of the container itself. Importantly, however, the regulation is anticipated to forbid the loading of containers unless the verified gross mass is available to the terminal and the ship’s master.

Practically speaking this means that the shipping lines may require terminals to verify container weights prior to being loaded onto their ships. There will, however, be a cost to it which the shipping lines are likely to pass on to their shippers. But besides added safety, there is another important aspect: optimising ship stowage which should reduce fuel consumption for the shipping lines. A ship is more stable at sea and consumes less fuel when the center of gravity is low and if the cargo is optimally distributed. Therefore, it is in the interest of the shipping lines to know the exact weights. Arguably, there are multiple aspects which determine fuel consumption of a ship, and some may be more important than stowage, but this is nevertheless a factor.

Determining container weights and related costs

First of all, to weigh a container and to use the load information to update the stowage plan, containers need to be weighed preferably at the completion of packing. Clearly, weighing export containers needs to be done sufficiently in advance for the stowage plan to be optimised. If the actual weight is not determined at the completion of packing, the port is in a prime position to provide this service or, indeed, to verify the documented weight. For containers that arrive at the port by road, rail or river an obvious ‘check point’ is during the inward process. Weighing with the quay side crane is too late, since the container position on the ship is determined well before loading.

Weights of transshipped containers should be verified at the original port of loading, but there will always be situations where this has not been physically possible. In that event, it can be said with certainty that every container, whether exported or transshipped, will pass through the stacking yard. It is therefore argued that equipping the stacking cranes with weighing systems best caters for all circumstances. Operators in those countries that require imported containers to be weighed may consider weighing with quay side cranes as well.

What does it cost to weigh a container? Let’s base the calculation on the capacity of a quay side crane which can typically load 100,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) per year. Let’s also assume there are three rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTG) or rail-mounted gantry cranes (RMGs) required per quay side crane. Let’s further assume a weighing system costs US$20,000 per stacking crane and it is amortised over three years. The cost per year to weigh 100,000 TEU is therefore US$0,20 per TEU. In addition to the capital expenditure for the weighing equipment, the terminal will incur some integration costs plus ongoing maintenance and administration costs, so let’s double this amount to US$0,40 per TEU. Weighing by the stacking cranes during the handling of the containers is also more economical than weighing with weigh bridges which very often involve manual intervention, when trucks are carrying two 20 foot containers which need to be individually weighed. Weighing in the stacking yard is therefore the fastest, most economical and non-disruptive way to the operation. Some terminals have calculated that they could offer their weighing services for US$1 per TEU and earn a profit with it. Continue reading →