The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into the MSC Napoli incident has shown that mis-declaration of the weight and contents of containers was a contributory factor to the accident.
Commenting on the report, Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director at the TT Club, pointed out that the MAIB specifically highlight the difference between the declared and actual weights for the 660 containers stowed on deck, and the fact that seven per cent of those containers were in the wrong position or declared as the wrong container – although this is within the industry norm of 10 per cent.
‘The report draws attention to the fact that shippers of containers are sometimes unable to weigh containers before shipment because they lack the facilities. Furthermore they are discouraged from doing so by factors such as import taxes, loading restrictions, and rail and road weight restrictions’, says Storrs-Fox. ‘The fact that many shippers or consolidators do not have easy access to weighing facilities, should not mean they loose sight of the significant safety implications of an over-weight container even before it is loaded on board a ship.’
The detailed investigation also gave an insight into the accuracy of cargo declaration, particularly of dangerous goods. The most likely reason for incorrect placing of containers on deck is to accommodate declared dangerous goods.
‘These findings simply underline the TT Club’s continuing concern that cargo weight and hazardous details are habitually mis-declared’, Storrs-Fox states. ‘Although it was not seen as a primary cause of the accident, the MAIB report does state that mis-declaration erodes or eliminates existing safety margins; and it also points out that only in container shipping is the weight of the cargo unknown.’