The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is calling on governments and industry bodies to back a proposed amendment that will tackle the dangers posed by unweighed or mis-declared shipping containers.
The ITF has been lobbying for nearly a decade for a compulsory international system of container weighing to be introduced in ports. Currently there is a reliance on self-regulation by shippers.
The amendment to the existing Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) will be tabled at a meeting of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) sub-committee on dangerous goods, solid cargoes and containers beginning 16 September. The meeting will decide if the weighing of packed shipping containers should be made mandatory.
The ITF proposal stipulates there should be an international law requiring mandatory weighing of loaded containers, and a process in place to address mis-declaration of container weights; additionally ships’ masters should be able to refuse to load undeclared or mis-declared containers.
Backed by the United States and Danish governments, the ITF amendment also has the support of industry bodies including The World Shipping Council (WSC), and The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO). The ITF is urging other country and industry representatives to demonstrate their commitment to worker and public safety standards by backing the SOLAS amendment.
Describing the matter as a key issue for transport workers worldwide, ITF president and chair of the ITF dockers’ section Paddy Crumlin explains that containers in reality are substantially lighter or heavier by 20% of cargo weight, presenting a major health and safety risk to dockers loading and unloading in ports, to seafarers onboard cargo vessels, and to drivers transporting containers on the roads.
This mis-representation of container weight can cause a lorry to jack-knife because it can’t handle the burden of the container; a cargo ship to split in two because of overloading; or infrastructure to prematurely wear down due to overweight containers, creating a major problem for the public, the environment and shipping companies.