A joint effort on new container weighing rules

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s new rule requiring all packed containers to have a verified weight before loading will result in a safer supply chain. A month into operation, collaboration has proven key to a smooth implementation.

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The new ruling from the IMO which came into force on July 1, requires every packed container to have a verified weight before being loaded onto a ship.

Safety at sea

The container weighing rule is an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, and is designed to improve safety in the international supply chain.

Mis-declared container weights have been a major struggle for the industry over the years, contributing to high profile accidents such as the beaching of MSC Napoli south of England in 2008 and capsizing of feeder vessel Deneb in Algeciras in 2011 – both due to instability of container stacks.

“Knowing the weight of a packed container will allow vessel operators to make safer stowage decisions,” says Jan Esbech, Head of Procurement for Global Marine & Inland in Maersk Line. 

“Once fully integrated we are confident the new rules will contribute to lifting safety for personnel employed in the global supply chain.”

The international supply chain industry is grappling with a new regulation which has changed the way containers can be shipped.

The new ruling from the IMO which came into force on July 1, requires every packed container to have a verified weight before being loaded onto a ship.

The rule is intended to improve safety in an industry where mis-declared container weights have contributed to many accidents over the years.

But with more than 100 million containers entering the supply chain on an annual basis – each one now requiring a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) – there’s no denying the scale of the implementation challenge, and it’s one that impacts every part of the supply chain.

Everyone plays a part

Maersk Line, APM Terminals and Damco all faced different challenges when it came to implementing the new rule.

The regulation affects hundreds of thousands of shippers that are generally unfamiliar with IMO work, which adds to the challenge.
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Lars Lorenzen, VGM project manager, Maersk Line

As it falls to the shipper to provide the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of their container, Maersk Line embarked on a direct mail campaign to inform customers of the IMO rule and clarify the responsibilities of the shipper. 

“The regulation affects hundreds of thousands of shippers that are generally unfamiliar with IMO work, which adds to the challenge,” says Lars Lorenzen, VGM project manager, Maersk Line.

Damco will in many cases be the shipper responsible for providing the VGM, and is now offering customers container weighing and filing of VGM data as additional services.

“We have talked to our stakeholders to see where our responsibilities lie, and where we could bring in new services that generate value for our business,” says Simone Kraal, Global Ocean Operations Manager, Damco.

APM Terminals has also launched new services for customers at ports around the world. A number of terminals have invested in weighing bridges at a cost of USD 20,000 each. New IT solutions including enhanced EDI – Electronic Data Interchange – which allows files to be sent through different systems have been brought in to manage the VGM data.

“Our approach has been first to ensure we are in compliance with the new rules and second to recover the cost,” says Daniel Jover, Container weighing programme manager, APMT.

Collaboration is key

For the three business units collaboration has been key to ensuring a smooth implementation of the container weighing rule. Regular joint sessions were held, as well as ongoing testing of IT systems to ensure VGM data could easily be passed between them.

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Mis-declared container weights have been a major struggle for the industry over the years. The capsizing of feeder vessel Deneb in Algeciras in 2011 is one example.
Anything that helps improve safety in the supply chain and improve risk management is a good thing and we are overwhelmingly in favour of it.
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John Trenchard, Head of Inland & End User Services, APM Terminals

In April, APM Terminals took part in Damco’s Supply Chain Conference where VGM impact and preparation was actively debated with key clients across the Maersk Group.

With the regulation now in force, learnings continue to be shared. 

“Since go-live, Maersk Line has asked Damco for feedback on their current solution, and Damco has reached out to Maersk Line proactively to improve our processes,” says Kraal.

“It’s been quite a challenge which has required a lot of collaboration across the industry;” says John Trenchard, Head of Inland & End User Services, APMT. 

“But anything that helps improve safety in the supply chain and improve risk management is a good thing and we are overwhelmingly in favour of it.”

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