Policy & Compliance

their own streamlined electronic and cloud- based requirements. In addition, the International Group of P&I Clubs (IGP&I), which provides indemnity insurance to around 90% of the world’s oceangoing tonnage, has picked up the pace on approving eB/L solution providers, with two added in the last six months to make a total of six approved so far. For any robust technology, such as blockchain

or digital ledger, to safely deliver an eB/L from end- to-end, data model and transmission standards need to be in place. If everyone who touches the eB/L is using the same data format and communication standards, it can be transported seamlessly regardless of pre-existing relationships between stakeholders. Digital standards will enable interoperability between all stakeholders, such as system providers, shippers, carriers, banks and regulators. Different parties can be involved in a transaction

as long as they have implemented the standards. Once a standard eB/L is available, it will also be easier for regulators, banks and insurers to accept the eB/L as a viable alternative to a paper B/L. Digitalisation of the container shipping industry documentation system will, however, require additional changes to fully modernise it.

Open collaboration In May, the DCSA embarked on an initiative to enable the open collaboration necessary for achieving full eB/L adoption. As part of this initiative, DCSA will develop open source standards for necessary legal terms and conditions, as well as definitions and terminology to facilitate communication among customers, container carriers, regulators, financial institutions and other industry stakeholders. Thomas Bagge, chief executive of DCSA, has

the last word: “DCSA’s mission is to drive alignment and digital standardisation to enable transparent, reliable, easy-to-use, secure and environmentally friendly container transportation services. Digitising documentation, starting with the bill of lading, is key to the simplification and digitalisation of global trade. “The transformation that has taken place in the

airline industry is an example of what is possible if we work together. The e-AWB is now the norm rather than the exception among air carriers. We invite industry stakeholders to work with us to create standards that will make the eB/L maximally useful and relevant for ensuring their goods are delivered safely and seamlessly to their final destination.”

This article was first published by The Handy Shipping Guide and BIFA would like to thank John Shingleton for permission to reproduce it here.

July 2020


Misdeclared container weights still a problem – but how big an issue?

VGM is an abbreviation that stands for verified gross mass. Container weight verification requirements, as outlined by the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (Solas), have been required since 1 July, 2016. The verified gross weight includes the mass of the material used to package the items, and the cargo items themselves. It also includes the weight of the container, together with the loading equipment. When introduced, few thought that the

regulation would completely end the problem of inaccurate cargo weight. In the UK, many ports offer a weighing service to their customers to establish a VGM that has to be communicated to the ship’s master prior to loading. Whilst there has been little recent discussion on the subject, some have questioned how this works in practice and whether the VGM is actually checked against the weight given at booking. These concerns, in part at least, seem to

have some foundation, as a result of the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau (MAIB) report into the collapse of three container stacks on the CMA CGM G Washington. This 14,414 teu vessel was en route between Xiamen and Los Angeles when it suffered a 20 degree roll in heavy weather, leading to the loss of 137 containers and damage to 85 others.

Accident causes The MAIB’s investigation established that one of the main causes of the accident was inaccurate weight declarations, which contributed to containers being mis-stowed. The investigation concluded that the containers loaded onto CMA CGM G Washington were weighed, and their weights recorded by the terminals during the loading process, but that “the terminal weight data was not used to check the accuracy of the declared VGM and there was no process in place to do so”. This is exactly the concern expressed in 2016. Following the incident, terminal weight data

was compared with VGM data for those boxes loaded at Xiamen. The results showed that the total for the 2,469 boxes was 30,394 tonnes, which was 736 tonnes less than the total declared VGM. Of those weighed, 65% were

within 5% of the terminal’s recorded weights, and more than 2% were more than 1 tonne heavier than their declared VGM, with the largest variance being 16 tonnes. The regulations ensured that data from

Xiamen was within 2.4% of the declared VGM for the 2,469 boxes loaded there, but the weight of 50 containers differed significantly to their declared weights. This can lead to container structural failure, stacks becoming unstable and/or lashings overloaded. The report concluded that the Xiamen

weights had not been reflected in the final cargo bay plans. This was despite IMO guidance that “if a packed container is weighed at the port terminal facility, that is the gross mass that should be used for ship stow planning”. This investigation has revealed that in practice, this guidance is not being followed in all ports. It concluded that CMA CGM should direct its

terminal planners to ensure that, where container terminals routinely weigh containers prior to loading, the cargo plan is updated to reflect these weights. It is important that Members understand that

when consolidating cargo they are acting as the shipper and that they have the legal obligation to provide the VGM to the ship’s master. If they are relying on the port to weigh the

loaded container, it is important that there is a process to ensure that this weight is transmitted to the carrier.


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