Ports and overweight containers



Susumu Naruse, Secretary General, IAPH, Tokyo, Japan


The issue of overweight containers, or incorrectly declared containers, has been one of the most critical safety issues for the port industry, as well as for the shipping industry. To ensure the safety of ship and port operation, some countries, such as the US, have already introduced domestic regulations that require export containers to be weighed on scales before being loaded aboard ships or being entered into container terminals. In other parts of the world, where strict local regulations do not exist, several accidents at ports were reported, which were apparently caused by overweight containers.

Recognizing that each mode of transport in the international supply chain is exposed to serious risks because of overweight containers, IAPH has adopted ‘Resolution on the Safety of Containers in the Supply Chain’ in its Busan Conference in May 2011. In this resolution IAPH declared the following:

1. IAPH requests international organizations such as ILO and IMO to adopt requirements for shippers to correctly pack and document cargo in containers, including the mandatory accurate weighing at the origin of the shipment;

2. IAPH urges shippers of containers at the origin of transport to apply such requirements to ensure safety in the international supply chain;

3. IAPH further requests governments and their agencies to establish effective legal requirements and control mechanisms to ensure the correct application of the requirements referred to above;

4. IAPH further requests parties responsible for road infrastructure to properly designate and promptly develop when necessary, road systems for special and bulky port cargo such as heavy containers and oversized cargoes.

As IAPH strongly supports IMO’s initiatives to further strengthen the shipper’s obligation to verify container weights before loading them onboard ships, we joined with WSC, ICS and BIMCO in issuing another press release ‘Ports and Carriers United on the Need to Weigh Loaded Containers’ in December 2011. As an interface between waterborne and land transport, ports need to act together with other related industries such as shipping and trucking to secure the safety of container transport.

On a practical side, however, the most appropriate final check point of weighing export containers could be at the gate of ports or container terminals when declarations of shippers seem dubious. The procedure may impose two major challenges on port authorities: the cost to be involved in weighing containers at ports, and, more critically, the physical space required for such operation. As the responsibility for declaring the container’s weight correctly lies with the shipper, the cost incurred by the operation should be passed on to shippers in the form of a weighing charge.

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