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The Dutch government will have to reverse its support for the mandatory weighing of containers prior to being loaded on vessels after members of its Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal (House of Representatives) voted overwhelmingly to reject the policy.

A motion was put forward to Dutch MPs in mid-March by the country’s liberal party and co-signed by its labour party which proposed, firstly that Dutch minister for the infrastructure and environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen stop pursuing the introduction of mandatory container weighing and, secondly, that it should look together “with the other stakeholders in the supply chain for alternatives to the loss of containers at sea,” according to the European Shippers’ Council’s member of its maritime transport council, Marco Wiesehahn.

The result is that the Dutch government is now obliged to oppose the mandatory weighing of containers, a Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal spokesman confirmed to The Loadstar.

“What we would like to introduce is a deadline by which shippers have to submit the correct weight of the container, but also that the carrier is using the data which is most up-to-date,” Mr Wiesehahn, one of the most vocal critics of mandatory weighing, told The Loadstar.

Mr Wiesehahn argued that rather than looking at the loss of containers at sea, the issue appeared to have become solely focused on the common rule-of-thumb law that 20% of all containers have misdeclared weights.

He said the ESC’s research had found that shippers have not been deliberately misdeclaring the weight of containers “so they can move more cargo in fewer boxes and so save money”.

“There is no motivation for shippers to do that – they have to fill out the correct weights for customs, otherwise there will be financial fines and other penalties. But carriers seem to assume that there is a large proportion of shippers who purposely give the wrong weights.”

He claimed instead that the shipping lines were failing to use the latest information about the shipments they carried.

“The weight data being given to carriers at the time of the original booking is some five or six weeks before the vessel actually leaves the port. In between the time of that booking and the sailing there are often changes to the weight of the cargo, which the shippers fill out prior to loading as demanded by customs authorities. However, that updated data is not used by the shipping line – it is using the data supplied a month and a half earlier, whereas it should be a precondition that it uses the actual data – the final shipping instructions – at that time,” he said.

However, he was also hesitant to put a number on what that deadline should be – while 24 hours prior to loading was originally recommended by the ESC, he added: “I have been informed by one master that in some of the more unsophisticated terminals 36 hours would be needed.”

How the vote will affect the International Maritime Organisation’s sub-committee for Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers’ working group on mandatory weighing remains to be seen, especially given that previously The Netherlands, along with Denmark and US, was one of the strongest supporters of mandatory weighing.

“That is a question for the politicians,” he said. “There is still a large contingent of countries that are working to make mandatory weighing happen. If The Netherlands can come up with a viable alternative that deals with the loss of containers at sea then I hope the discussion can move on.”


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