As of July, trucks carrying cargo destined for export markets would not be allowed to enter South African ports without the correct verified gross mass information, Transnet National Port Authority said on Friday. This came in the wake of a new directive from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) prompted by the misdeclaration of container weights that resulted in vessels tipping over, among numerous accidents that have put the lives of ship crew in danger.

Last week, the authority, Transnet Freight Rail and Transnet Port Terminals met with shippers and exporters in Durban for a briefing on the safety of life at sea, concluding that ports should not be congested on July 1, when the regulations come into effect.

Two methods

Shippers, packing houses and exporters should ensure their cargo weight includes the container and load. Shippers now provide gross mass that is not verified and often misdeclare the weight. "We have had instances where the container documents indicate less weight than what is loaded in the vessels. This has created havoc in the sea, where vessels have tipped because of heavy weight or the containers themselves end up at sea," said Zeph Ndlovu, the authority's GM.

The regulation would stop this. According to a circular by the IMO, there are two methods by which shippers can obtain the verified gross mass of a packed container.

The first allows the shipper to obtain the mass at the end of the packaging and when the container has been sealed. The second requires the shipper to get a certified verification company to weigh all items including the container contents, securing materials, and container straps. Upon verifying the gross mass, the company will provide a certificate that the exporter can use each time they enter the port with such a load.

Kirsty Goodwin, an occupational health and safety executive at the South African Maritime Safety Authority, told export industry members there would be no extension beyond July 1. "Whether exporters use method one or two, they should make sure that the weighing equipment meets the applicable accuracy standards."

Peter Besnard, CE of the South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents, said teething problems were expected and cheating would be costly.

Source: Business Day