One of the key responsibilities of shippers is to ensure that the verified gross mass of containers is communicated to the ship's master. Due to misdeclared information, overweight or underweight containers have been stowed in ships. This has compromised maritime safety and resulted in accidents, stacks of containers collapsing on board the vessels carrying them, loss of containers at sea, and negative impacts on the marine environment. Major differences between the declared and actual gross mass of containers have also been detected in the cargoes of vessels departing from Finland.
In order to ensure international maritime safety, it has been necessary to specify the verification of the gross mass of containers and the way it is communicated in the supply chain. The amended international SOLAS regulations, that will enter into force worldwide on 1 July 2016, will influence the work of all parties involved in transport operations (shipper, freight forwarder, shipping agent, port, port operator, shipping company, ship's master, the competent authority).
The SOLAS Chapter VI, regulation 2.4–2.6 will not apply to containers carried on a chassis or a trailer to be driven onto a ro-ro ship engaged in short international voyages.
Under the amended SOLAS regulation, the shipper is responsible for communicating the verified gross mass of containers in the shipping documents, which are delivered to the ship's master or his representative and the terminal representative for the purposes of preparing the ship stowage plan.
According to the SOLAS regulation, the shipper is the party during transport who is responsible for providing information in the bill of lading, sea waybill or equivalent multimodal transport document. By way of a contract, the shipper may authorise a third party to perform this duty. In such a case, the authorised third party is responsible for the contents of the container stowed onto a vessel and signs the transport document indicating the verified gross mass of the container.
There are two methods by which the shipper may obtain the verified gross mass of a packed container: weighing, or on the basis of written documents.
Alternative methods of ascertaining the verified gross mass of a container:
1. Weighing using calibrated and type-certified container weighing equipment
The scale must be type-certified by a European notified body. The accuracy class index of a non-automated scale must be IIII or higher. The measuring accuracy of an automated scale must be Y(b) or higher.
2. Adding − the gross mass of a container may be calculated using a method approved by the competent authority
The shipper must manage, follow and implement high standard health and safety practices. The shipper must ensure that the health or safety of employees or customers is not jeopardised and that no damage is caused to the environment. For instance, the international ISO 9000 series of standards addresses organisational operations management with regard to quality management and quality assurance.
The weighing of individual packages, parcels and other units placed in a container must be based on the use of an appropriate type-certified scale. If the goods or substances intended for the container are of such a type that their unit mass and the total mass of the goods or substances to be further loaded onto the container can be reliably determined on the basis of their density, specific weight or average weight, the container's verified gross mass can be determined in an alternative manner by adding the contents of the container thus filled to the net mass of the container.
The scales must be certified in accordance with the Act on Measuring Instruments (707/2011).
If the verified gross mass of a container has not been declared in accordance with SOLAS Chapter VI, regulation 2, the ship's master or the master's representative may not accept the container for stowage on board the vessel. The authorities perform inspections of container masses. The penal provisions of the Maritime Act (674/1994) and the Act on the Technical Safety and Safe Operation of Ships (1686/2009) apply to neglect of the amended SOLAS regulations on the weighing of containers.
Additional information is available from:
Special Adviser Jyrki Vähätalo, tel. +358 29 534 6470, jyrki.vahatalo (at) trafi.fi