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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WSC raises concern over New EU shipper rules – ‘could reveal confidential data’

Buyer-sellerCurrent plans to identify ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ before vessel loading could lead to disclosure of sensitive business information, claim carrier, forwarder and cargo-owner representatives, according to the World Shipping Council (WSC).

Latest European Commission amendments to the EU advance cargo data reporting requirements scheduled for adoption later this year need further clarification. The WSC along with shipper and forwarder representatives is opposing the Commission’s proposals in their current form.

The Commission is now in the final stages of completing its proposals for advance cargo data reporting requirements as part of the implementation of the new Union Customs Code which is scheduled to be adopted in May and could then take effect as early as May 1, 2016. But the WSC claims that the Commission’s efforts to find a short-cut way of obtaining the identity of the ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ of the imported goods before vessel loading could lead to the disclosure of sensitive business information.

Instead of getting it from the importer, like the US does, the Commission has proposed regulation that would require this information be provided to the carrier or NVOCC, or in the alternative, to the ‘consignee’, to be filed in an ENS (entry summary declaration) as a condition of vessel loading.

Based on their understanding and experience with shippers, the WSC has advised the Commission that ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ data may be business-confidential information, and that it is not appropriate to require its disclosure to ocean carriers/NVOCCs or to these parties’ consignees, who may not be parties to the goods’ sales contract.

The WSC also noted that carriers’ current documentation systems had no data fields to capture this information. The Council has been joined by the European Shippers’ Council, the European freight forwarders’ association (CLECAT) and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) in opposing the Commission’s proposals.

If the regulation is implemented as proposed, exporters to the EU should recognize that they will be required to provide the identity of the buyers of their goods to their carrier or NVOCC or to their consignees prior to vessel loading, so that this information could be provided by the carrier or NVOCC in its required advance ENS filing. Source: LloydsLoading

For more detailed information in this regard refer to the World Shipping Council’s website – Advance Cargo Shipment Data

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

11 Million cigarettes wash up on Devonshire coast

The container ship Svendborg Maersk was battered by hurricane winds as it crossed the northern stretch of the Bay of Biscay on February 14th. Battling 30-foot waves and working through winds of 60 knots the ship arrived only to find that a large chunk of her cargo had been swept overboard. The ship was originally heading from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka.

The shipping giant initially reported that only 70 containers had been lost in the storms. However, last Wednesday this number skyrocketed to 517 – the largest recorded loss of containers overboard in a single incident. Countless more are supposed to have been damaged when six of the bays tilted over.

Maersk have suggested that almost 85 percent of the containers were empty, with the rest containing mostly dry goods and frozen meats. They also reinforced the fact that none of the containers were carrying harmful substances and that many had sunk in the turbulent seas.

Nevertheless, French authorities have been on the lookout for floating containers, which can be hugely problematic for other shipping vessels, alongside a huge environmental risk. According to New Zealand marine insurer Vero Marine, a 20-foot container can float for up to two months, whilst a 40-foot container may float up to three times longer.

Already, containers have been surfacing as far away as the coast of East Devon, United Kingdom. The 40-foot container washed up at Axmouth, near Seaton and is estimated to contain 14 tonnes of cigarettes. Police were immediately called in to cordon off the area and scare away any would-be smokers hoping to make a steal and sneak off with a portion of the 11 million cigarettes (refer to picture gallery).

As of yet, there has never been a requirement for shipping lines to report container loses to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)or any other international body. In 2011, the World Shipping Council estimated that around 675 containers were lost at sea, whilst the Through Transport Club, which insures 15 of the top 20 container lines, has suggested that the number is closer to 2,000.

However, other sources suggest that this is nowhere near the true number, with some citing as many as 10,000 lost at sea each year. Analysts have suggested that one of the reasons such loses can occur are due to the lack of accuracy when weighing containers before transit. Some shippers have been found to understate the weight of containers in order to reduce shipping costs. Such misinformation can lead to uneven strain on a vessel as it transverses the seas.

One of the most notable incidents occurred in 2007 when the MSC Napoli ran aground off the English coast, breaking up and spilling 103 containers worth of toxic cargo, polluting five miles of the South Western coast. The UK marine accident investigation board ruled that the accident was due to cargo being loaded in such a way that it exceeded the baring weight of the hull girders, resulting in a structural failure across the ship. The report concluded that if such loses are to be prevented, it is essential that containers be weighed before embarkation. Source: Port Technology

Finding the best solution for 100% container weight verification

Bromma load verification sensing technology (www.bromma.com)

Bromma load verification sensing technology (www.bromma.com)

The International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) has helped the container handling industry to put focused attention on the issue of container weight verification. The IAPH and the International Shipping Organization have called for near 100 per cent container weight verification as a standard industry ‘best practice’. IAPH has recognised the value of container weight verification for both safety and operational reasons. Accurate container weights can help guide critical plans regarding stowage, and verifiable load data also serves to ensure worker safety. Lifting containers within an acceptable weight range also prevents accelerated stress on the spreader, thus extending equipment life.

The issue that organisations such as IAPH and the World Shipping Council have raised is not merely an academic one, studies of container weight indicate that there is often significant variation between listed and actual container weight. The problem is a familiar one: not everyone tells the truth about their weight, as the consequences of inaccurate weight can include equipment damage in ports, injury to workers and collapsed container stacks, among others.

The question is ‘how’, not ‘should’?

The general consensus has grown that universal container weight verification is a worthy standard, the key question has quickly begun to shift from whether we should we have a universal requirement to how we can best implement this commitment. Along these lines three general approaches might be possible.

The container crane option

The first possible approach is to utilise container cranes to meet the weighing requirement. The advantage of weight verification by cranes is that weighing occurs during the normal course of handling operations. The disadvantage of a crane-based approach is that weighing accuracy is only approximately 90-95 per cent, and cranes cannot distinguish between the weights of two containers when lifting in twin-mode. Since many terminals load and unload container ships using twin-lift/twin-20 foot spreaders, the actual weight of each of these individual containers will remain in doubt if there is a reliance on container cranes to yield this data. Also, with the emergence of the mega-ship era, more and more terminals will be looking for productivity solutions that enable more containers to be handled in each lift cycle, and so twin-handling of 40 and 20 foot containers is likely to expand in the future, thus adding to the number of containers with an uncertain weight.

The weigh bridge option

A second option for terminals would be to meet the container weight requirement through the use of weigh bridges. Unfortunately, there are multiple weaknesses in this approach.Containers can be weighed from the weigh bridge, but driving every container onto a weigh bridge will obviously add another operational step, and slow productivity. It also requires, especially at larger and busier transhipment terminals, that considerable land and transit lanes be set aside for weighing activities. In addition, there are two weight variables on the weigh bridge – the variable weight of up to 300 litres of truck fuel and the weight of the driver. Further, as with a container crane, a weigh bridge cannot distinguish between the weights of two containers, and so the weight of each individual container will always be inexact. The only way to gain a precise weight is to weigh one container at a time, and to adjust for fuel weight and driver weight variables.

The spreader twist lock option

The third option is to ascertain container weight from the spreader twist locks. For container terminals, a spreader-based weighing approach has several key advantages. Firstly, weighing from the spreader twist locks yields much more accurate information, as container weight precision is greater than 99 per cent. Secondly, unlike weigh bridges or crane-based container weighing, spreaders weigh each container separately when operating in twin-lift mode. When a Bromma spreader lifts two 20 foot containers or two 40 foot containers at a time, the spreader can provide highly accurate data on the weight of each separate container, and without any of the variables (fuel, driver) associated with the weigh bridge approach.

In addition, with a spreader-based approach you weigh containers from the spreader twist locks without adding any extra operational steps or requiring any extra space or transit lanes. Terminals simply log container weights in the normal course of lifting operations – with a warning system alerting the terminal to overloaded and eccentric containers. Container weight verification during the normal course of terminal operations is a way to accomplish the weighing mission without impairing terminal productivity, and especially at busy transhipment terminals. To read the full report, Click Here!

Source: www.porttechnology.org

Building Resilience in Supply Chains

WEF - Building Resilience in Supply ChainsOn 24 January 2013, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, participated in a press conference dedicated to the launch of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Building Resilience in Supply Chains 2013 report. Sander van ‘t Noordende, Accenture’s Group Chief Executive for Management Consulting, introduced the report and its major findings, such as the top supply chain risks that include extreme weather, natural disasters, physical and cyber security threats, along with economic and political volatility. He highlighted that the report argued the need for a coherent and consistent framework to deal with supply chain resilience, partnerships between government, Customs and businesses, and the sharing information flows for risk assessment purposes.

Secretary General Mikuriya pointed out that supply chain resilience is very important for Customs, whose functions include ensuring that legitimate trade continues even in cases of disruption, an issue which has been addressed by a set of standards and instruments developed by the WCO, in particular, the 2011 WCO Resolution on the Role of Customs in Natural Disaster Relief.  He also stressed the importance of public-private partnerships in order to share security responsibility with trusted traders through the implementation of the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade and its integral Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programme.

Cooperation at intergovernmental level with longstanding partners of the WCO, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the World Shipping Council (WSC), was also emphasized by the Secretary General as being key to harmonizing standards and creating synergies among different stakeholders. In addition, he pointed out that transparency and trust among stakeholders in supply chains was of the utmost importance, as this led to a global cohesive approach and even stronger partnerships.

The Secretary General of the IMO, Koji Sekimizu, addressed the concerns of the maritime sector, in particular, the sustainability of international transportation within the context of supply chain resilience. He mentioned that along with the WCO, the IMO has built its approach on risk assessment and risk management, resulting in the adoption of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities. He also touched on the issues of port infrastructure, piracy and port security, and underlined the importance of cooperation with other stakeholders, such as the WCO and ICAO. Source: WCO

Global union body seeks box weigh-ins before stacking rules change

Container weight misdeclarations will compromise safety if new rules are accepted to allow 10 per cent more cargo aboard ships in the 4,000- to 16,000-TEU range, says the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The Lloyd’s Register liberalisation proposals to increase the stacking of boxes on board is backed by the forwarding lobby FIATA (Federation Internationale des Associations de Transitaires et Assimiles), but ITF port representative Albert Le Monnier says the measure is “absurd” without the verification of weights of laden containers before loading. “Look at the problem of misdeclaration we’re experiencing,” said Mr Le Monnier, former vice-president of Canada’s west coast section of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

“As a rule, self regulation has a very poor record.” The World Shipping Council (WSC), the Baltic and Maritime Council (BIMCO) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) as well as the US, Denmark and the Netherlands are seeking verification of weight of loaded containers as a pre-loading condition for ships.

The practice needs to be shared or to be assigned to the shipper, consignor or consolidator through a system of roadside weigh bridges en route or have a weigh bridges at the terminal, said Mr Le Monnier, reported the London’s Loadstar.

The cost to the terminal operator would be passed on to carriers, then on to the shipper, and ultimately end up in a negligible consumer end-price, said Mr Le Monnier. It is essential, he said, that any weighing verification of loaded containers isn’t rushed through without careful thought by the IMO “correspondence group” due to report back by June 2013, ahead of the deadline for deliberation in September on the issue.

Stacking weights differently aboard could increase cargo 10 per cent for 18,000-TEU vessels allowing for operational flexibility, said the Lloyds Register marine director Tom Boardley. “These results indicate clearly that we will be able to allow much higher cargo weights and enable more operational flexibility – and to do this in safety,” he said. “The potential in cargo increase is considerable.” Source: http://www.seanews.com.tr

Ports back campaign to weigh all export containers

The International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) has joined the World Shipping Council (WSC) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in urging the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish an international legal requirement that all loaded containers be weighed at the marine port facility before they are stowed aboard a vessel for export. In what has been a much publicized issue since 2008 in the maritime industry, much the same view is taken by customs administrations. Like many other changes in the supply chain, it is a lot easier said than done. Modern ports are designed and developed taking into account requirements for weight bridges, radiation portal monitors, networks to monitor vehicle and container movements in and around port precincts, and inland transportation routes. While the expense and budget for these are usually borne by the relevant port authority, would it not indeed be good if those responsible for the packing/stuffing of containers took it upon themselves to ensure the correct weight, quantity and content are properly declared?

Refer to the joint WSC/ICS paper on “Solving the Problem of Overweight Containers” as well as the ICS’s “Safe Transport of Containers by Sea”. Both are self explanatory and short enough so as not to be considered laborious. In the South African context the question of who packed the box is often unanswered given that a variety of entities could be involved in this activity. In some instances it could be a container depot operator or a freight forwarding and consolidation agent; depending on how ‘safety and compliant conscious’ the shipper wants to be. While it will still take some time before the entire supply chain becomes properly regulated and monitored, now’s the time for ‘operators’ to take stock of what might in future be a new standard. New standards mean more capital outlay with pass-on costs for which the shipper ultimately carries the can.