Each year, maritime industry workers and others receive needless injuries, some of them fatal, because cargo containers exceed their declared weights. Overloaded containers might cause lifting cables to snap and drop their cargo, dock cranes to topple, cargo container stacks to shift and fall aboard ship, ground-based shipping trucks to tip over, and overburdened roadways or bridges to give way. Damaged docks, port infrastructure, trucks, and equipment result, along with crushed limbs and other costly injuries as well as fatalities.

Current regulations under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention require a shipper (the party that loads its goods into a container) to provide an accurate container weight declaration. But the current regulation is not enforced, and there is no legal requirement to weight individual cargo containers, so many shippers ignore the regulation. As a result, many cargo containers exceed their declared weights.

Maritime industry bodies and governments faced with mounting concerns and costs from accidents and injuries caused by overloaded or misdeclared cargo containers have united to create a proposal designed to close the gap between regulations and enforcement. The proposal has been sent to the IMO (International Maritime Organization), the global body charged with overseeing and implementing standardized safety regulations for maritime operations worldwide.

The proposal to the IMO supports a legal requirement that the shipper not only provide an accurate cargo container weight declaration, but that the ship on which the container loads and the port facility possess a weight verification certificate obtained by weighing the individual container. Weighing each container and producing a separate weight certificate for each will no doubt add greatly to the time and effort of shipping. So we expect shippers will respond with a strong degree of protest against what they might characterize as an unduly burdensome requirement.

The World Shipping Council, the International Association of Ports and Harbors, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (which represents almost 5 million workers), the International Chamber of Shipping, the United States, The Netherlands, and Denmark stand among the parties sponsoring the safety regulation. The IMO Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods Solid Cargos and Containers will address the proposal in its next meeting, which occurs in September.

We hope that the proposal represents a strong stride forward in cargo container shipping safety, a step that will benefit shipboard and port workers alike. In the meantime, if you’re the victim of a maritime industry accident caused by misdeclared cargo weights, contact our experienced Galveston injury lawyers for a free and confidential legal consultation. We have more than 12 years of dedicated practice helping injured workers successfully recover for the harm they’ve suffered. We could help you too.

(Source: Marine Log News, 6/20/2012)