The SOLAS Container Weight Verification Requirements

Warehousing Australia

S.A.L Global Logistics wish to notifying our customers of the “International Maritime Organization” (IMO) amended “Safety of Life at Sea Convention” (SOLAS), requiring all shippers to verify and provide a Container gross mass weight to the Shipping Lines and Port Terminal representatives prior to being loaded onto any vessel.

A verified container weight is a condition for loading a packed container aboard a vessel for export, and is the responsibility of each shipper globally. This requirement will become legal from 1st July 2016, after which time it would be a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container onto a vessel if the vessel operator and marine terminal operator do not have a verified gross mass container weight. 

Industry indicate the requirement is long overdue, considering the accidents and equipment damage caused by overweight and mis-declared containers on the road, rail, and sea. 

There are existing ways to comply with the SOLAS weight verification requirements.

Under the SOLAS weight verification requirements, shippers are able to verify the gross weight of a container in two ways:

Method 1 – Weigh the Container;
Method 2 – Weigh the cargo and all packing and securing materials before loading, and add this to the Containers tare weight. 

METHOD 1

Weighing a packed container would most likely take place at the shipper’s yard using a weighbridge on-site.

Issues:

  • Where on-site weighing is unavailable, weighing the cargo only at a weigh-bridge off-site or at port, means transporting a potentially overweight Container from the warehouse, thereby exposing the truck driver and trucking company and the public to potential danger.
  • Investment – If shippers are able to invest in weighing equipment and processes, they will recover the investment through eliminating possible additional fees or higher transport rates, as well as extra costs and charges if a container is found to be overweight during the transport process or at port.
  • The same scenario results if a shipper engages a third party or a terminal operator to weigh the Containers.
  • Shippers will need to reconsider their operational processes, as weighing each Container can add additional machine & manpower hours to the whole loading process.
  • If a Container is found to be overweight, it may simply be rejected by the port, requiring the shipper to repack its contents or miss the vessel.
  • The shipper will bear the blame even though a third party did the weighing.

Possible solutions:

  • On-site weighbridges
  • Container cranes with load-bearing sensors

METHOD 2

Requiring the cargo, packing & securing material be weighed prior it is loaded into the Container.

Issues:

This method is not suitable for goods such as Bulk products (i.e. grains and sugar), as well as liquids in flexi-tanks.

Without the proper certified equipment, weighing several cargo loads may prove inefficient.

Possible solutions:

  • Forklift with inbuilt weigh-scales to manage each load being packed.
  • Certified floor weigh-scales – capable to accept items/pallets/weights being loaded

Having the Shipper/Warehouse loader weigh the Container and/or its contents, the shipper will have knowledge in advance for cargo stowage and planning. It also minimises loss of productivity requiring to repack a container found to be overweight.

This can also prevent accidents and damage that may result from transporting a potentially overweight Container from the warehouse to port. 

From a safety perspective, it is important that the gross weight of a packed Container is established before the journey begins. While many shippers may already be doing this, the SOLAS weight verification requirements will enforece the practice, and provide standards.

There is likely to be regulations established regarding responsibility and imposing of fines for mis-declaration. 

For more details about these new requirement, please see further information from The World Shipping Council:

http://www.worldshipping.org/industry-issues/safety/cargo-weight

http://www.worldshipping.org/industry-issues/safety/containers