“Safe Container – Steering Changes” – SOLAS Amendment
With the SOLAS Convention now requiring container weight verification from 1st July 2016 onwards following the amendment approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) last November, the Company of Master Mariners of India (CMMI) jointly with the Indian Maritime Administration conducted a Conference on “Safe Containers Steering Changes” on 10th December at The Lalit, Mumbai. The objective of the conference being to bring together various stakeholders in the container supply chain and provide an opportunity for an in-depth understanding of the different issues and their implications.
Deepak Shetty, the Director General of Shipping and Additional Secretary, Government of India, stated that the Indian Maritime Administration was totally prepared to implement the new requirement. “The paradigm of container weight verification has been globally under deliberation for years and eventually the IMO has brought about the amendment to the SOLAS Convention to require, as a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that every container has a verified weight.”
Setting the pace for the deliberations Capt Philip Mathews Master / Chairman of CMMI pointed out that various well known accidents at sea on the Container vessels [such as on Maersk Svendborg (2014, Biscay), MOL Comfort (2013, Arabian Sea), MSC Napoli (2007, South Coast of England)] have lead on to long debates and resulted in this amendment. The new rules have placed the onus on the shipper to provide the ‘Container Weighment’ certificate. Shipper must ensure that the documentation reaches the terminal and the ship well in time to help stowage planning. How this can always be achieved seamlessly, without any delays at any stage of the logistic chain, has to be well thought off and planned out.
“Mis-declared container weights are a safety and environmental concern,” Capt Mathew stated. “It makes it difficult to plan the safe stowage on a ship thus resulting in failure of the container stack, places abnormal and dangerous stresses on the ship’s structure, and affects vessel stability. This puts the safety of the crew, cargo and safety of port side workers and equipment at increased risk. It affects the entire supply chain. There are various landside consequences also.”
He added, “There are also significant associated economic consequences. It may mean that cargo is left behind once a ship reaches capacity, causing economic loss and supply chain disruption. In addition, costs to the insurance industry linked to cargo and ship loss can result in increased insurance premia. These are passed onto shippers either via increased insurance premiums or indirectly via freight rates. Responsibility for declared container weights had to be fixed.”
It was noted in the deliberation that the new rules will affect the operations right from ICDs/CFS and road transport and up to the loading on board the vessel. The entire operations have to be seamless. Any delays will result in losses. While container weights have always been required, it has been found that substantial inaccuracies existed in the weights declared. It was noted that an estimated third of the 130 million containers shipped every year have inaccurately declared weights. There also appears to be an alarming level of ignorance about the SOLAS amendments.
Going into the details of the amended SOLAS convention and their implications, Capt K. P. Jayakumar, Dy Nautical Advisor to the Government of India explained what the new regulations meant and how stakeholders could benefit from the regulation once it comes into force. Having brought together various stakeholders on one important platform he desired that everyone come out with their views and resolve difficulties that they anticipate, thereby establish a uniform understanding on all matters.
It was observed that this amendment of the SOLAS VI Regulation is the result of a few indulging in the malpractices of declaring a lower container weight thus giving a bad name to the entire trade. Taking stock of the increasing number of accidents taking place as a result of this malpractice the IMO finally took stock of the situation and came up with the amendment which holds the shipper responsible for the verification of the weight.
No doubt the chances of mis-declaring will come down drastically since the shipper has to give a signed declaration there would hardly be any instance of containers getting dangerously loaded.
Capt Deepak K. Tewari, CEO of MSC Agency India Pvt Ltd and Chairman of the Container Shipping Lines Association who spoke on the Commercial perspective was categorical in saying that once the Regulation came into force the shipper will not be able to mis-declare the weight. “Already we have our own check and balances in place and the crane operators and other equipment handling operators have the facility to tell the weight of the container when it is lifted,” he stated. “We don’t anticipate occurrences of untoward incidents happening in the CFS and terminals.”
In the panel discussion Capt L. K. Panda, The Nautical Advisor to the Government of India, who chaired the session, informed that the Directorate wanted to come up with a pragmatic solution since it comes under SOLAS and can have severe implications. And hence it is for the administration to take a serious view.
“We have to create a situation where the trade does not suffer while complying with the Regulation,” he said. “It should not cause any hurdles just because 5% are taking the law in their own hands and causing a bad name to the other members of the trade. Hence, this regulation was necessary so that other 95% did not suffer.”
“If a container is brought to the terminal and found to be in excess of the declared weight the container will be sent back. In the Directorate we will set up a website in which we will project the list of defaulters and the extent of the default.
Winding up the deliberation Capt Shiv Halbe, Warden of CMMI said that the conference stretched on for a whole day discussing just three para that have been included in the SOLAS. The conference has brought together a huge section of the various stakeholders. This is become an important event for CMMI.