The 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 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 today, Monday 16 September. The meeting will decide if the weighing of packed shipping containers will be made mandatory.
The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) 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 ITF proposal stipulates that there should be an international law requiring mandatory weighing of loaded containers, a process in place to address misdeclaration of container weights, and that ships’ masters should be able to refuse to load un- or misdeclared containers.
The ITF amendment is supported by the United States and Danish governments as well as 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.
ITF president and chair of the ITF dockers’ section Paddy Crumlin explained: “This is a key issue for transport workers worldwide. We estimate containers which are declared as one weight but in reality are substantially lighter or heavier, may be in the region of 20 per cent of cargo. That presents 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.”
He continued: “But this isn’t just a worker issue. When a lorry jackknifes because it can’t handle the burden of the container, if a cargo ship splits in two because it’s been overloaded, when port equipment and infrastructure is prematurely worn down because of overweight containers then you have a major issue for the public, for the environment and for shipping companies.”
He concluded: “It is time for this issue to get the weighty response it deserves and we want to see governments and industry players get behind the SOLAS amendment so that an appropriate response to the issue can be delivered, via the IMO.”