The Asian Shippers’ Council (ASC) has rejected the recent agreement at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) making mandatory the verification of gross weight of containers, saying Asian shippers stand much to lose with its implementation.
In a recent written release, the ASC said the pact was arrived at “without proper representation from the party with the biggest stake in this issue—the shippers.”
It added: “The European Shippers’ Council (ESC) and the Asian Shippers’ Council (ASC), which together represent 75% of the world’s shippers, were not involved at any of the meetings convened to discuss mandatory verification of gross weight of containers, neither were our views sought on how to address the vital issue of container safety.”
The ASC, which integrates shippers’ associations in Asia, lambasted the mandatory cargo weighing and verification as “not workable in practice.”
John Lu, chairman of the ASC, said: “There are millions of shippers across Asia, with different levels of maturity and different operational constraints. Before arriving at a key gateway for export, cargoes may have to use multiple modes of transport—trucks, ships and/or rail. Can you imagine trying to implement what is agreed at the IMO in such a challenging environment?”
He added that a one-size-fits-all requirement would not work in Asia. “It has not worked for 100% security screening and it will not work for 100% verification of gross weight of containers.”
The terminal operators shared the shippers’ concern, said the ASC. “At key gateways like Busan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, there are thousands of containers coming through daily, many of which are transhipped. Should a mere fraction of these present some kind of problem over verification, it would have dire effect over the operation of the terminals.”
Another issue raised by ASC concerns responsibility. It said the IMO decision puts the burden of weighing and verification of gross weight of containers on shippers, hardly mentioning shipowners’ responsibility. “We believe better results can be obtained if the shipowners were to work with the terminal operators.”
Cai Jia Xiang, vice chairman of the China Shippers’ Association, said the mandate would increase the cost burden for shippers, generate additional paperwork, and cause unnecessary delays in the supply chain. “Will it improve safety? We have strong doubts,” he said.
The ASC appealed to governments to analyze the impact of and take action on the decision, saying Asia will be at the losing end when it is applied.
The Asian Shippers’ Council (ASC) consists of 19 shippers’ councils from 16 countries and territories. These councils are located in South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, with affiliate shippers’ councils in Africa.