NEW RULES ABOUT MISDECLARED CONTAINERS
Article kindly supplied by Dr Murray King, transport consultant and past president of CILT NZ. First published in Logistics and Transport NZ, the official publication of CILT NZ.
The International Maritime Organisation, a London-based UN body, regulates the safety of international shipping. It is responsible for the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (“SOLAS”), which regulates all aspects of shipping, passenger and freight, from building the ship to life saving equipment to dangerous goods. Chapter VI specifically deals with carriage of cargo. 162 countries have signed up to this convention (including New Zealand), representing 99% of the world’s shipping tonnage. In New Zealand, the SOLAS rules are incorporated into local rules through the Maritime Transport Act 1994, and Maritime New Zealand’s (“MNZ”) Maritime Rules.
Recently the IMO has agreed to amend SOLAS to tighten up the rules about declaring container weight. Already the convention requires shippers to declare the weight of containers, so masters can make proper trimming decisions for their ships. But the rules do not appear to be particularly well enforced, if at all. Container weights continue to be poorly estimated, or wrongly declared. Both under- and over-declared weights are safety risks. If a box is declared at less than its actual weight, it may be put high in the ship’s deck stack, creating potential instability. If it is declared at more than its actual weight, it may be put lower in the deck stack with heavier containers above it, and again disrupt the stability.
Containers do have load limits, marked on them. But a container need not be loaded beyond its limit to be a problem. It is the difference between actual and stated weight that is the issue. Poor weight distribution in a container also creates serious problems.