AMSA confirms tighter weighing controls on export containers

By: Rob McKay

Maritime safety watchdog say it will work with NHVR on any road freight impact

AMSA confirms tighter weighing controls on export containers
AMSA is leading the verified gross mass compliance push.


Despite industry concern about the risk of confusion and disruption from tighter container weighing rules, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) insists the change is more a tweak than a revolution.

However, it confirms that exporting firms and those supplying services to them will have to upgrade their weighing technology if it is not up to the new standard the federal government agreed to under the international Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) verified gross mass (VGM) agreement.

And it has pledged to work with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to iron out any road freight issues that might arise from the reform agreed in the Internatioanl Maritime organisation (IMO).

"There are a variety of requirements related to the regulation of heavy vehicle regulation which include measurement of gross mass and confirmation the axle weight limits are not exceeded," an AMSA spokesperson tells ATN in a written response.

"For the carriage of  containers on board ships, providing the gross mass of containers has been required since 1994 but how it is to be done and what standards would be applied have not previously been specified in the regulation.

"The proposed solution is to recognise, where ever possible, the existing measurements made under the National Measurement Institute (NMI) regulations (and associated standards) are suitable for the purpose of determining verified gross mass as required by SOLAS.

"This is because measurement under NMI regulations (and associated standards) is required for any item (including containers that have to be weighed for trade.

"This already applies to 95 per cent of containers that are shipped by sea.

"For the remaining 5 per cent, it is proposed to accept measurements made using NMI standards for non-automatic measuring devices, or devices calibrated to other standards accepted by AMSA.

Regarding concerns raised by international transport and logistics companies about disruption, the authority says it is consulting with industry to beat a path to compliance.

"AMSA is working with relevant industry bodies to assist shippers to meet their responsibility to provide verification of the gross mass to ensure that Australia complies with both SOLAS and the guidelines, with the least impact as possible.

"For ships, accurate weight is required so that containers are placed and stowed evenly to maintain the stability of the ship during the whole voyage.

"For loading and unloading ships and delivering workers’ safety, the adequacy of securing devices used to attach containers to vessels and the selection of suitable lifting/loading equipment is reliant on knowing the correct weight of containers.

Providing the weight of containers to ports and ships is not a new requirement and has been required since 1994.

"International experience has called the accuracy of the mechanisms used into question and led to the pending amendments.

"To assist shippers and industry understand how to comply with these SOLAS requirements, the IMO has published ‘Guidelines Regarding the Verified Gross Mass of a Container Carrying Cargo’ (MSC.1/Circ.1475).

"Noting NMI regulations should already be complied with for the majority of containers, it is expected the NMI regulations will provide the level of accuracy required.  If full compliance with existing land transport requirements are properly applied then the obligations on those shippers of the majority of containers will be met.

"AMSA will be educating shippers on the importance of this requirement and is also cooperating with the NMI and the Heavy Vehicle Regulator given the synergy between road and sea transport needs."

The NHVR deferred to AMSA when asked for comment on the issues raised.

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