Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Watch your weight!

Posted on | December 20, 2011 | 1 Comment

There is a certain category of shipper, I’m told, who is so dim (or so dishonest) that when a container is delivered to him for loading, will stuff the thing with cargo until the doors will barely shut. He will then declare that the box is, say four tons in weight, when in reality it may be six times as much. With any luck the container will fall on its side as the haulier negotiates the first sharp bend in the road on the way to the docks, but if the road is straight, it might find its way into a terminal, or even onto a ship.

There will invariably be no weighbridge, or weighing device available to tell of the shipper’s crime, and despite menacing creaking noises coming from the reach stacker in the terminal, or the noises of protest from the shiploader, this wretched box may then find its way high onto the stack aboard ship. And this, alas will be the straw that metaphorically breaks the camel’s back, collapsing the stow as the ships works in the seaway, and taking several dozen other boxes to a watery grave.

This may cause only anger and disappointment, but people who couldn’t care less about the weights they stuff into a container have already capsized feeder container ships, smashed up cranes, had forklifts standing on their forks and very likely subjected large ships to fatal structural stresses. The MSC Napolis loss was at least contributed to by a large number of overweight boxes, while that of the feeder Dongedyk which could have drowned her crew if her capsize had occurred in deeper water, was certainly caused by her chief officer not having a clue about the weight of their cargo.

It is going on all the time, as any containership Mate who has compared the draught with the tonnage of cargo declared will confirm. Terminals seem powerless to intervene, and everyone seems unwilling to be nasty to the shippers. So it is good that the IAPH has joined the World Shipping Council, ICS and BIMCO in calling on IMO to have the SOLAS Convention amended to require accurate and verified weights of containers. About time too.

It could be argued that shippers ought to be the guilty party that is brought to heel here and that shippers’ organisations, which spend inordinate amounts of time whining and protesting about carriers might be considered the missing guest at the feast. It is shippers that cause the damage, who risk people’s lives, and who fundamentally cheat over container weights. So let’s hear it from them. Weighing containers is not rocket science. They are doing it in the US, where there is less generosity towards cheats and it ought to be made universal.


One Response to “Watch your weight!”

  1. Nicholas A. Iliopoulos
    December 23rd, 2011 @ 9:22 am

    Michael, Well done; as always.
    Season Greetings, From China.

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