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.”

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Weighing Cargo at the source

IMG_39671-210x140Worldcargo news.com reports that a recent truck weighing deal in the UK provides food for thought in the run-up to IMO DSC/18 in September 2013.

Central Weighing, part of Avery Weigh-Tronix, has supplied a cost-effective weighing solution to help Balfour Beatty avoid overloading on its fleet of 3000 light commercial vehicles and 1000 heavy commercial vehicles, which are located at numerous and very often temporary sites across the UK.

Balfour Beatty operates a large and diverse fleet of commercial vehicles in the UK ranging from small vans to 44t artics. The plant, tools, equipment and materials carried vary widely depending on the project or contract being serviced.

“With such a wide variety of loads being transported, it is essential that the vehicles can be weighed accurately and efficiently, to ensure safety and comply with road transport legislation,” stated Central Weighing. “Installing a weighbridge at each location was not financially feasible, so Central Weighing’s solution was implemented to supply 10 portable dynamic weighbridges.”

As discussed on numerous occasions in WorldCargo News, where the shipping line requires container weights to be verified by physical weighing of the container, the ideal location from an overall supply chain perspective is the shipper’s or export packer’s container stuffing point. This provides:

  • the earliest possible notice of discrepancy with the declared weight, and hence the most time for the ship planner to adjust the loading plan.
  • confirmation of legality for road shipment in terms of gross truck mass and axle loads. Inland transportation is outwith IMO’s remit, but this point is clearly very important in terms of road safety. It is not acceptable for shipping lines employing hauliers in a carrier haulage move to ignore it and focus exclusively on the integrity of their loading plans.

Of course, most shippers do not have container lifting equipment, but container chassis could easily be fitted with load cells measuring the weight and distribution as the container is stuffed at the loading dock, or the whole rig could be driven onto portable weighbridges/mats shortly after the container is loaded. If Balfour Beatty can do it, why can’t shipping lines or their contracted road hauliers?

If the truck is shown to be overloaded in terms of gross mass and/or individual axle loads, the container will have to be stripped and restuffed, leading to dispatch delays. Since gate “slot” times and reception “cut off” times are so tight, something has got to give. Don’t expect a truck with a three-hour window between departure from, say, Daventry and arrival in Felixstowe to make it in one hour!

Both container weighing and packing are being discussed in special workshops at next week’s TOC CSC Europe conference in Rotterdam, and these points need to be aired.

Sounds like the kind of discussion and development to be followed by Transport (including Port) and Customs authorities alike. Perhaps the MOL COMFORT tragedy will lend some importance (interest) to this debate.

Source: World Cargo News