Road Transport and Logistics Briefing - Weighty matters
The International Maritime Organisation have looked into the question of incorrect declared container weights in the wake of disasters such as the MSC Napoli and the MOL Comfort and as a result SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea convention) Chapter VI Regulation 2 has been amended to tighten up the process of weighing containerised cargoes and declaring/verifying those weights. The amendment was adopted in November 2014 and will become legally binding on 1 July 2016.
The real change (for the purposes of shippers) is that there are now only two permissible methods of arriving at the verified weight of the container. These are weighing:
- the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment (e.g. weighbridges, load cell sensing technologies etc)
- all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other securing material to be packed in the container and adding the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses, using a certified method approved by the UK MCA.
In the case of method one, in the UK the Non Automatic Weighing Instruments Regulations 2000 (S.I. 3236), govern the use of weigh bridges. In addition to compliance with these regulations, it will be the responsibility of the operator of the weighbridge to have in place a demonstrable procedure for the maintenance of the weighing equipment. It would seem prudent however that the shipper should obtain and retain copies of both the weighing certificate and the maintenance procedures in case there is any query or dispute over the weight at a later stage.
In the case of method two an organisation can apply to the MCA to be certified to verify the weight of a stuffed container. Companies who already have ISO 9001 accreditation can apply to the MCA to become ‘regulated shippers’. The MCA have said that other non ISO accredited companies will have a route to becoming regulated shippers, but at the time of writing no clear guidance has been issued.
There are wrinkles however: for example it has been observed that cargoes of scrap metal and other bulk cargoes can only realistically be verified under method one (and there have been dark mutterings about the availability of public weighbridges in the UK). Furthermore wooden packaging and paper dunnaging can increase in weight as humidity rises.
Businesses who elect to use method two will be required to ensure that they meet the expected level of compliance (-/+ 5%). Failure to do so will render them liable to penalties under Regulation 13.4 which are:
- Commercial - Repacking costs, administration fees for amending documents, demurrage charges etc.
- Regulatory - imposed by the MCA based upon statute which in this case are the Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Cargoes) Regulations 1999, as amended: Regulation 13 (1) A person guilty of an offence under Part II (General Provisions, Cargo information), III or IV of these Regulations shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both.
Since 1 April 2015, The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Fines on Summary Conviction) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/664) has meant that in fact there is no statutory maximum and the fine is unlimited.
The MCA will also have the power to revoke a companies regulated shippers’ status, thus preventing them from using method two.
Birketts has a dedicated shipping and logistics team which can handle all aspects of disputes involving goods in transit.
For further information on this topic, please contact Duncan McGregor. This article provides only a general summary and is not intended to be comprehensive. Specific legal advice should be taken in any individual application. Law covered as at December 2015