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Dutch shipper body EVO has warned of a flaw in the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) forthcoming regulation on container weight with shippers obliged to provide a verified gross measurement of the weight of export containers prior to loading on ships.

EVO policy consultant on maritime affairs and fiscal lawyer Lodewijk Wisse told The Loadstar that part of the legislation, which becomes law on 1 July 2016, allows individual countries to set their own weight tolerance percentages for weighing equipment. This, he believes, will result in a seriously unbalanced playing field.

For example, the UK’s maritime regulator, the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency (MCA), has said it will accept weighing equipment that has an accuracy of plus or minus 5% of the actual gross mass of a container.

The Dutch ministry of transport is advocating a similar tolerance level and EVO is advocating that all countries adopt the same fixed difference in stipulated allowance percentage.

Me Wisse said: “We have run a test to find out what the real tare weight of a container is, while establishing a particular tolerance percentage. The test was done on a fully certified and calibrated weighbridge. Its outcome was an allowance of 5%.”

He added that the transport ministry will issue a concept regulation to the effect in the weeks to come.

The only other country which has so far set its tolerance level is Denmark, which only went as far as 0.5%. Dutch maritime industry sources suggested that leading Danish shipping line Maersk may have lobbied for this low percentage.

EVO has also repeatedly argued that placing the entire responsibility for providing the verified gross mass through weighing will pose a huge administrative burden – while a shipper can establish the weight of his product, it has more difficulty with packaging used wrap goods or pallets on which cargo is carried.

“Customs already inspect containers and their contents. To the shipper’s mind, safety is not only about weight, but also about stowage and lashing of cargo,” Mr Wisse added. “This should not be laid solely upon shippers.”

Jasper Nagtegaal, infrastructure policy consultant to Rotterdam-based port entrepreneurs’ organisation Deltalinqs, agreed.

“Transportation sectors will also be confronted with these regulations. That is why Deltalinqs, [Dutch forwarders organisation] Fenex, Transport & Logistics Netherlands, EVO and others strongly advise dividing the administrative burden of compulsory weighing across all modalities. Terminal operators specifically focus on the spot weighing bridges should be positioned. All for the sake of a smooth operation at terminals,” he said.

The Royal Association of Dutch Shipowners (KVNR) has supported both container weighing and certified weight calculation methods, as well as prohibiting containers without verification from being loaded onto a vessel.

KVNR managing director Martin Dorsman said: “Incorrect container weight can cause serious problems during stacking layers of containers at the terminal and when lashing them onboard ship. A heavy weight stacked upon a light weight can cause the lower positioned container to collapse.

“There is also the risk onboard, in case a heavy container is stacked too high in a layer. In such a case the vessel’s movements during the voyage can cause containers to go overboard.”

However, EVO’s Mr Wisse added: “IMO’s impending regulation opens opportunities within the market. Adding tare weight to the container content has not been done before and the maritime industry would welcome suitable solutions to elevate administrative burden.”

One solution under currently development in the Netherlands is, which has run a test using an axle load weighing system. The ContainerWeight app can be used at the weighbridge and the results are filed to any port community system. is also developing a worldwide database of container tare weights to help shippers.

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  • Ron Signorino

    September 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    EVO’s claim is somewhat disingenuous, inasmuch as arriving at all legal weights and measures are the proper province of the statutorily-mandated national authority within each sovereign nation.

    Thus, in example only, if the United Kingdom wanted to stipulate a less accurate tolerance for the weighing of a pound of potatoes at market than France, it would be free to do so. The real questions are:

    1). Why would they? and
    2). Wouldn’t market forces culture the correction of such unruly behavior?

  • Gary French

    September 27, 2015 at 12:34 am

    EVO have not interpreted the UK container weighing rules correctly. UK MGN-534 requires that containers are weighed with Weights and Measures certified equipment, which implies OIML standards and a minimum accuracy level of +/- 0.5%. The UK accuracy standard for container weighing equipment will therefore be consistent with the Danes’. It would be the Dutch who would be well out of line with the rest of the world if a +/-5% accuracy standard for weighing equipment was adopted. This accuracy level would render the new weighing regime pointless. Imagine, the Emma Maersk with up to 15,000 tonne of uncertainty in its cargo!

    For those interested in the finer points, EVO are conflating a number of things,
    (A) the accuracy and certification standard applying to weighing equipment in the UK MGN (+/- 0.5%),
    (B) the enforcement threshold specified in the UK MGN (up to 5%, but to be enforced on a case by case basis), and
    (C) EVO’s testing of the tare weight of empty containers, where they say there was a discrepancy of up to 5%.

  • Mike Farry

    October 23, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    A 5% variation on the weight of an empty 20 ft container, which EVO reports, is about 100 kg. That uncertainty is neglible in relation to the gross weight of a laden container. A 5% tolerance on the gross weight is something else completely. That’s 1500 kg uncertainty on a 30 tonne container; exactly what the weight verification rules are aimed at reducing.