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Better information would solve container weight problem, says ESC

[ February 15, 2013   //   ]

The European Shippers Council (ESC) has called for an improvement in information exchange between shippers and shipping lines to tackle the problem of incorrectly declared container weights. The call comes as the International Maritime Organization weights up a mandatory weighing scheme.

ESC insists that a mandatory deadline for the delivery of the final shipping instructions by the shipper to the carrier would largely solve the problem and that the present lack of a clear deadline for shippers to share their shipping instructions leads to unexpected container roll-overs and unreliable stowing and loading plans for container ships. The latter can cause difficulties for a ship’s master when determining whether or not the safety limits of the ship have been exceeded.

ESC adds that there “there is some accepted flexibility” in accepting the latest information that has not yet fully been processed in the carrier’s database. Instead of using ‘real’ data, a carrier will often use the shipper’s booking data to determine its stowplan and the latter is in turn the basis of the terminal loading plan. Changes made by shippers to the approximate weight of its container as declared in the booking data is regularly  not processed in a timely manner, leading to a disparity between the registered loaded container weight on board a ship and the real loaded container weight.  As a result, ships masters sometimes, in the interests of safety, leave containers on the quayside with the resulting costs to be paid by the shipper.
To resolve this problem, the ESC suggests that carriers be given the opportunity to create a stowplan on the basis of the latest cargo information available, namely the shipping instructions. A legally defined delivery deadline for the shipper’s shipping instructions would be the best way of solving the problem of this information gap.  Shippers and carriers along with other stakeholders in an intra-sector working group should now negotiate the exact definition of such a mandatory deadline. Such a deadline would have to be early enough for carriers to produce a stowage plan on the basis of the shippers’ real-time data; yet not so early as to unnecessarily increase lead times.

 

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