Shippers told to prepare for global container weight verification rule

The United Nations and its International Maritime Organization approved the guidelines last year, after container lines, port labor and terminal operators pointed to recent international incidents as proof that mandatory container weighing is needed.

Overweight containers played a role in the breakup and subsequent beaching of the MSC Napoli on the southern U.K. coast in January 2007, along with the partial capsizing of the Deneb, a 500-TEU feeder ship, in the Spanish port of Algeciras in June 2011. The crackdown on overweight containers — the number of which some estimates peg at 130 million annually — is part of a broader global effort to combat misdeclaration of exports.

Asian and European shipper groups pushed back against mandatory container weighing, arguing it would add extra costs and that the infrastructure, particularly in developing countries, simply isn’t in place. Supporters of the IMO rule countered that critics exaggerated the impact and costs of implementation. They cited the fact the U.S. has long required all export containers to be weighed, a requirement that hasn’t just reduced supply chain efficiency but has improved safety, according to the International Association of Ports and Harbors.

Effective July 2016, shippers worldwide must provide a verified weight for every packed container preparing for transit and shippers must be aware that they are wholly responsible for their containers’ weight, the shipping council said Tuesday.

“The regulations place a requirement on the shipper of a packed container, regardless of who packed the container, to provide the container’s gross verified weight to the ocean carrier and port terminal representative sufficiently in advance of vessel loading to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan,” the group explained.

Vessel and terminal operators do have some obligations. The two groups are prohibited from loading a packed container aboard a vessel for export if the container does not have a verified container weight, and must use verified weights in their vessel stowage plans.

“All parties should use the next 12 months to plan for the efficient and effective implementation of this requirement,” the World Shipping Council said Tuesday.