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November 5, 2017
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November 6, 2017

One Year On: IMO Container Weight Regulations

Import, Export, Logistics concept - Map global partner connection of Container Cargo freight ship for Logistic Import Export background (Elements of this image furnished by NASA)

Last year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) made a change to the rules for recording shipping container weight. A container that’s packed has to have a verified weight. It went into effect July 1, 2016, and meant that containers needed to be weighed before being loaded onto a cargo ship.

Different approaches for this were allowed. You could weigh a container after it was packed. Or you could weigh the container’s contents before packing and add it to the weight of the container. The main goal here is to be able to help ships make better stow plans for containers. The IMO wanted to avoid situations in which heavier containers were stowed above lighter ones. While this won’t damage the cargo below – shipping containers are made to withstand bearing weight – it could make the stowed cargo top-heavy. The rule change also sought to make it easier for ships to direct heavier cargo containers to certain areas of the ship. Not doing so could give the ship a minor loss in performance or make securing cargo more difficult than it should be.

Overall, the rule is built on what many shipping companies already do, and it also made it easier for shipping containers being transferred between different ships or various modes of shipping. Different carriers can now rely on a shipping company’s weight verification rather than having to re-weigh the cargo, even when transferring it internationally. This means that should cargo be transferred, our shipping container weight verification can be accepted by another shipper, or we can accept their weight verification without having to re-weigh. This element smooths out various international standards that would previously demanded re-weighing and could thus delay cargo.

Fortunately, the rule has been received well. Since most shipping companies already followed some version of this policy, it didn’t disrupt transport chains or cause delay upon the IMO implementation. It’s been followed across the industry without problem. The biggest issue was ensuring smaller ports had properly certified weighing equipment, but a long lead-up to the rule implementation helped ensure that ports of all sizes had proper equipment and weighing procedures in place.