Why Exact Cargo Weight Declaration Is Crucial

Shipping Containers

The Importance Of Declaring Cargo Weight Exactly

The Link Ship Chandlers team has been in the shipping industry for decades, which means that we have seen our fair share of minor (and major!) disasters play out in Cape Town and the other South African ports we service. Sometimes accidents happen and it’s no-one’s fault, other times it’s a series of unfortunate events that started with something as simple as incorrect administration.

This is where cargo weight declaration comes in. The weight of any given container may seem like a slightly trivial matter – if it’s off by a few kilograms (or many for that matter) who does it hurt? This seems to be a prevailing attitude among members of the shipping community in many countries. The truth is that it is far from trivial and can actually hurt a lot of people, including seafarers, dockworkers and other individuals who are involved with the handling thereof along the shipping supply chain.

How so? Well, containers are stowed on ships according to their weight, with the heaviest at the bottom, and the lighter ones at the top in order to maintain the overall stability of the ship. Ship stability is very important for obvious reasons – a ship with uneven cargo distribution can cause huge accidents because the captain won’t be able to steer it effectively in case of any disruptions along the line.

Containers are allocated a given space on a ship based on the weight that was declared. The problem comes in when unscrupulous clients underplay the weight of their containers to save on costs by avoiding surcharges etc. While one misallocated container may not make a difference as such, modern mega-ships carry thousands of containers, so these misallocated weights add up and can cause huge difficulties when a ship is unstable, but the stats provided don’t show why or how the container configuration should be altered to make it safe.

Such issues have caused major incidents over the years, including the MSC Napoli incident, as well as the collapse of a container stack aboard the MV Limari in Damietta.

There you have it – a concise look at why it is so important to declare exact cargo weight every single time. Keep an eye in the blog in the coming weeks and months for more expert insight into all things shipping. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the Link Ship Chandlers team to learn more about the chandling services we offer at South African ports in Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Durban and Richards Bay.

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