Some shippers in Kumasi have expressed worry over
likely delays and added cost that may arise with implementation of the latest
International Maritime Organisation (IMO) requirement to weigh and verify the
weight of containers before shipment, which comes into effect on July 1 this
Ghana is a member of the International Maritime
Organisation signatory to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention, and has
consequently ratified this convention by making it part of its laws. As part of
the processes, Ghana is required to implement the mandatory amendments to the
International Convention for the SOLAS Chapter VI, in part dealing with cargo
information, which the IMO adopted in November 2014.
These amendments, which become effective in four
months’ time for packed export containers received for loading onto a vessel
involved in international maritime traffic, are among others expected to ensure
safety of the ship; safety of workers both aboard ship and ashore; the safety
of cargo and overall safety at sea.
It also looks at the ship’s stability and how it is
likely to affect the stowage plan of the vessel -- whether causing it to list
and thereby damage the cargo. The purpose of the Container Weight verification
requirement is therefore to obtain the accurate gross weight of packed
containers so that vessel and terminal operators can prepare vessel stowage
plans prior to loading ships.
The move by IMO, the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping, is believed to have been informed by efforts to reduce or eliminate maritime accidents resulting from overloading vessels. “In January 2007, the containership MSC Napoli suffered a structural failure and broke up off the coast of the UK. Mis-declared container weights were identified as a factor causing the structural failure.”
But some shippers say implementation of this new
requirement will result in long hold-ups of consignments and other challenges
that could affect general exports, given all the processes one is required to
follow and the lack of infrastructure. Already, shippers have been complaining
of congestions at the ports leading to slow pace of operations.
The Logistics Manager for Olam Cocoa Processing, Mr.
Joseph Darko Mantey, noted for instance that the condition for transmitting
data electronically will pose a huge challenge to many shippers. He observed
that most exporters are not readily set up for an EDI system -- an electronic
data interchange system that enables an exporter to maintain some form of
connection with terminal operators or shipping lines.
He said for those who do not have the established
facilities or infrastructure in place will have to rely on the operations of
third party weighbridge operators, which will result in additional cost to
their business and some possible delays. Mr. Darko Mantey was speaking in an
interview with the B&FT at a one-day seminar in Kumasi, organised by the
Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) to sensitise shippers’ on the IMO’s mandatory
container weight verification, and expressed doubt over the country’s readiness
to work with this new requirement.
He asked that the implementing institutions take
time to develop a clear roadmap in order to address these anticipated
challenges. However, Deputy Chief Executive Officer-GSA, Mrs. Sylvia Asana D.
Owu, said exporting companies who have their own weighing equipment will need
to the Ghana Standards Authority to calibrate and certify it before it can be
allowed to be used.
Despite that, she added, the GSA will engage service
providers to negotiate reasonable charges for exporters who do not have such
facilities. She is optimistic that
shippers will become more informed through these forums on this new requirement
for its smooth implementation.
She warned that if a packed container is received at
a port facility for export without a verified gross weight, it will not be
loaded onto a vessel until a verified gross weight is obtained.
The Kumasi Branch Manager of GSA, Mr. Emmanuel
Kwarteng, appealed to all stakeholders to embrace and support amendments to the
convention, which is aimed at further deepening efforts at tackling issues of
safety at sea.
He said the GSA has rolled-out a comprehensive
programme of sensitisation for shippers and other stakeholders across the
country, to ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the Regulation in
“It is also collaborating with other stakeholders in
establishing the necessary infrastructure and appropriate systems to facilitate
the implementation,” he added.