Cargo weight misdeclaration has been one major canker in the maritime industry which has been partly blamed for some maritime accidents and casualties at sea. This particular challenge has been around for a long time and in an attempt to curtail the problem, a new SOLAS amendment will from 2016 place the responsibility to declare accurate cargo weight on shippers.
Although some regional shipping councils are adamant about the requirements of this new rule, Industry players believe it is corporately and socially irresponsible for shippers to not take ownership of this issue. Others also believe such a rule has been long overdue and as such this amendment may have even come a little too late as major accidents could have been prevented if it had been implemented earlier.
Shippers may declare wrong cargo weight for several reasons, one common knowledge is that, many shipments especially to Africa are deliberately under-declared, to minimize import duties which is essentially fraud.
The weight of a cargo whether under declared or over declared have serious consequences on the load plan or stowage plan of a vessel. A cargo with under declared weight could be loaded on top of other supposedly heavier ones as the master of the ship might have been misled to believe. This could eventually lead to serious vessel stability issues resulting in breakup of vessels, containers falling overboard etc. and ultimately leading to loss of lives and properties at sea with its associated impact on the environment.
In addition, wrong weight declaration could cause major casualties at container terminals. Ship-to-Shore cranes, forklifts, reachstackers etc have been known to fall under heavy weights which operators might not have anticipated due to wrong weight information provided by shippers.
Furthermore, the effects of wrongful weight declaration does not only end at the terminals but has an overall effect at every stage of the container’s journey through the entire supply chain process. Hinterland roads suffer from early deterioration as well as rail lines combined with road accidents, trucks breakdowns etc.
The eventual cost to be incurred by shippers as regards the implementation of the new SOLAS amendment is relatively small, and it is a necessary cost within the overall supply chain to protect the public and all commercial entities from damage or death.
If the shipping councils believe that costs come before safety and well-fare, then they should state that and be judged on it for ever more.
In an interview with one maritime consultant, he stated “ Incorrect weights have been an issue since I joined the industry in 1987, and I have been involved in many projects to try to over-come this evil. It is quite close to the heart.” He further added that packing depots either need to be able to scale the fully loaded container or its cargo prior to stuffing and that scaling any further down the transport cycle is akin to closing the gate after your horses have escaped.
In the nutshell, The dangers posed by overweight (or poorly stowed containers) are not exclusive to sea-transportation and risks are even more prevalent on land. Container trucks kill hundred’s if not thousand’s of innocent people the world over every year and therefore it has become necessary for immediate measures to be taken to address this situation.
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