BG Verkehr / Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg

Thomas Crerar
Phone: +49 40 361 37 744
Fax: +49 40 361 37 204

Loading containers

Packing and securing goods in containers

A common scenario at home when you are about to go on a vacation: packing the car the right way requires some skill. The same applies to the loading of containers with goods. The interests of those involved in the packing process may differentiate: the charterer wants to accommodate as much cargo as possible; the shipowner is mostly interested in the compliance with the permissible total weight of the container. A wrong distribution of weight, missing securing of the load or an overloading of the container can not only lead to a damaging of the cargo but also endangers the stability of the ship itself. Wrongly stowed containers can go overboard during a storm – a high safety risk for maritime traffic since lost containers often swim just under the water’s surface which makes them hardly visible.

With the “Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units”, in short CTU Code, the International Maritime Organization IMO, the International Labour Organization ILO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UNECE adopted a guideline to practice safe loading of cargo transport units like containers. The CTU Code supports shipping companies and charterers in stowing and securing packing items. It documents up-to-date information on packing and securing cargo.

Further information about loading of containers is also available on the website of the German marine insurers.

bild container-beladung

Determining the gross mass of a packed container

In January 2007 the container ship “MSC Napoli” was stranded off the coast of southern England. The salvage company had the containers weighed during the recovery. It transpired that many containers were considerably heavier than indicated in the cargo documents. One of the containers showed a weight difference of 20 tons.

Overloading containers poses a danger for the stability of ships and is therefore a big risk. That is why the International Maritime Organization IMO has included new regulations for the weighing of containers in chapter VI Regulation 2 of the SOLAS Convention. The IMO provides further information on this topic on their website.

On the basis of these changes, the verified gross mass of a packed container that gets loaded onto a SOLAS ship has to be documented. Otherwise the packed container may not be loaded.

These changes to the SOLAS Convention came into force on 1st of July 2016. The new arrangement is specified in the “Guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo” (MSC.1/Circ. 1475). This amendment of the SOLAS Regulations is implemented in Germany with an entry into the annex of the German ship safety act (Schiffssicherheitsgesetz).

The Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr is responsible for the implementation in Germany.

These include:

  • defining accuracy classes of the scales used for the determination of the gross mass and
  • arrangement for the certification at the company if the gross mass is to be determined by calculation (so called method no. 2).

The BG Verkehr determined the following provisions in coordination with the European neighboring ports:

  • If the whole packed container gets weighed (method no. 1), scales of accuracy class IIII (IV) or higher are to be used in accordance with Directive 2014/31/EC. Weighing on a chassis or trailer is generally possible. In this case, clause 11.1. of the Guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo (MSC.1/Circ. 1475) needs to be observed.
  • If a shipper wants to determine the gross mass by calculating the individual components, he can ensure the certification with the existing certification (ISO, AEO) and by retaining already developed business processes. Weighing has to be done with scales of accuracy class III of Directive 2014/31/EC.

For shippers who do not have this option, BG Verkehr has developed an approved procedure to calculate the gross mass in accordance with Method 2.

There will be no special authorization procedures by BG Verkehr regarding certification or the use of weighing devices.

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Current questions and answers

There is an extensive section in our FAQs regarding the different ways and requirements of the determination of the gross mass of containers.

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