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  • Shippers’ fear delays as IMO requirement takes effect

    Mar 30th, 2016

    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 year.

    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 Ghana.

    “It is also collaborating with other stakeholders in establishing the necessary infrastructure and appropriate systems to facilitate the implementation,” he added.