Parliamentary Question: DoT: Containers weighed at marine ports

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Mr S B Farrow (DA) asked the Minister of Transport:
(1) Whether he has been informed of recent research and recommendations (details furnished) to establish an international legal requirement that all loaded containers be weighed at the marine port facility before they are stowed aboard a vessel for export; if not, why not; if so,

(2) whether these recommendations will be considered at the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Safety Committee meeting in May 2011; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what will the Government’s position be on these recommendations;
(3) whether any discussions have been held with other entities within the transport industry in regard to the consideration of weighing containers leaving and entering our ports in order to prevent (a) the continued overloading of containers and the resultant damage it causes to the roads and (b) the risks associated to (i) the workers, (ii) industry operations, (iii) the ships itself and (iv) the environment; if not, why not; if so, what has been the outcome of these discussions regarding each of the last-mentioned effects on the industry;
(4) whether any weighing devices exist on existing straddle cranes that can simply determine the weight of containers being lifted or stacked; if not, why not; if so, (a) how many and (b) at which ports;
(5) whether the possibility of using such devices has been considered; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details? NW44E

REPLY:

The Minister of Transport:
(1) Yes, we are aware that the World Shipping Council (WSC) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) will be proposing that the International SOLAS Convention be amended to require marine terminal operators to weigh a stuffed container upon receipt, and have a verified container weight before loading a stuffed container aboard a ship for export. This proposal may be tabled at the May 2011 meeting of the International Maritime Oganisation’s MSC by the WSC.
(2) South Africa supports the initiative. Weighing of containers is important as it ultimately contributes to the safety of life and vessels at sea. Whilst the marine terminals play a role, it is strongly recommended that the entire logistics supply chain for containers is included in the initiative. Most importantly, the correct culture needs to be created at the point of container packing. In South Africa, packing occurs outside the marine terminal precincts and in many instances at locations hundreds of kilometres away from the port. Therefore, it must be ensured that the packing weights for these containers are in compliance with the legal limits at the point of packing, prior to such containers being loaded onto road or rail transport to be brought into the port terminals. South Africa’s Marine Container Terminals (operated by Transnet Port Terminals, a division of Transnet Limited) are not equipped with weigh bridges to weigh road haulage containers. In this regard, the relevant municipalities will need to be engaged to ensure their weigh bridge facilities are fully operational at appropriate locations on the road routes into ports, and where necessary, additional weighbridges are installed.
(3) (a)

The weighing of containers will assist in curbing the damage to roads when containers are imported as the correct weight will be known before a truck leaves the port. Weighing of export containers at the Marine Terminal is far too late in the logistics supply chain to prevent damage to road infrastructure as the truck will have damaged the road before the container is found to be overweight at the port. Export containers are generally about 30% to 50% heavier than import containers as they normally carry raw materials, whilst import containers generally carry lighter, manufactured goods. The damage to the roads would only be curbed for export containers if they were weighed at source, i.e. at the point of packing, before they travel on the roads. Given the fact that South Africa allows trucks with multiple containers on the roads (intra-link trucks can carry up to three containers at a time), the use of a weighbridge is not feasible to get individual weights for each of the containers. If exports are weighed in all countries before being exported there would be little need for the importing country to weigh the container as the correct weight would already be known. If a weighbridge is to be used to weigh containers, then trucks would have to be forced to only carry one container at a time, which would increase the cost and time of doing business substantially.
(b) (i)

In order to measure the correct weight, the container will have to be picked up from the truck with either a straddle carrier or a rubber-tyred gantry crane. Should it be overweight and the bottom fall out of the container, there is the danger of someone being injured. This risk exists whether containers are weighed at the Marine Terminal, or not.
(ii)

In order to weigh containers with straddle carriers/rubber-tyred gantries or gantry cranes, the equipment operator will have to pick up the container and stop to get a correct weight before proceeding to place the container into the allocated position. The additional requirement to weigh containers will significantly increase the cycle time for the handling of a container, which in turn would increase handling costs. Vessels would take longer to be loaded.
(iii) and (iv)

Overweight containers can be catastrophic for a vessel and result in loss of vessel, loss of life and environmental damage, e.g. the MSC Napoli incident in the United Kingdom.
(4) (a)



All current container handling equipment at all container terminals in South Africa is fitted with a form of weighing device, which is a safety feature to prevent exceeding the safe lifting rating of the equipment. The current weighing devices are connected to the spreader twist-locks and merely indicate whether the maximum weight on each of the twist-locks is within the recommended safe working load. For example, a straddle carrier rated to lift 40 ton would have a rating of a maximum of 10 ton per twist-lock. A container may only weigh 30 ton, but because it has been packed eccentrically, the weight on one of the four twist-locks may exceed 10 ton and the straddle carrier safety device would not allow the straddle carrier to lift such a container, even though the container overall is not over weight. The current devices do not give a printout of the weight recorded and are merely built-in safety devices.
(b) All container handling equipment at all of the container terminals has such devices, but for safety reasons only, as advised in (4) (a) above.
(5) To equip all container handling equipment in container terminals with a proper weighing device, which would give an overall weight of the total container, a large investment would need to be made by Transnet and would need to be recovered through tariffs. The weighing devices cost approximately R1 million per piece of equipment. Transnet would need approximately 250 such devices at its current container terminals and would need to provide for ongoing equipment maintenance. Such devices require the equipment operator to lift the container and stop to record the correct weight – which would directly impact on port terminal productivity.