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Weighbridge accuracy

  • 29/09/2022

So you thought weighbridge figures were accurate? Recent experiences in Dar Es Salaam might make you want to think again. Receivers are notorious for ignoring draft survey reports on the basis they are inaccurate the following might make them want to re consider.

The photographs, above and below, highlight a novel way of saving time on a weighbridge not long enough to take a complete articulated unit.

We are advised that instead of uncoupling the trailer the front end of the unit is weighed, the unit then drives through leaving the rear axle on and another reading taken. The readings are then added together. This is done both empty and full the difference being the weight of the commodity.

The Club strongly recommends that:

  • Members be aware that port weighbridge figures in Dar Es Salaam could be suspect.
  • Members should contact the Club's correspondent if outturn figures are to be based on weighbridge calculations alone.
  • Members should make charterers aware that there could be a problem with outturn figures in this port.
  • As a general rule:
    • Members should always make sure, if possible, hatches are sealed prior to leaving the load port in the presence of a third party surveyor.
    • Invite charterers/receivers to attend at the discharge port to witness the seal breaking.
    • Always conduct an independent draft survey, inviting charterers/receivers to attend.
    • Closely monitor any spillage at time of discharge, keeping photographic and written evidence. If spillage is excessive contact the Club's correspondent.
    • If Members are faced with shortage claims based on weighbridge figures it is essential for weighbridge calibration records to be checked. The actual method of use of the weighbridge itself should also be checked for irregular practices as above.

Theft from containers 

During the past six months there have been three losses of substantial amounts of computer related cargo from containers that have been shipped from the USA and discharged in Santos, Brazil. These three losses totalled over US$1,000,000 in value.

The seals on the containers were checked immediately before loading in the United States and checked again immediately upon landing at Santos. In two cases, the seals on landing were found to be different and in one case no seal at all was present. In one case, later in the day, a routine check by Brazilian Customs on empty containers discharged from the same vessel found most of the missing cargo from one of the boxes.

The Club's investigative unit, Signum Services Limited, found that the cargo being shipped was carried in cartons 205mm x 250mm x 485mm and that when the loaded containers, all stowed below deck, were in their stowage positions there existed a gap of between 250mm and 300mm between the container doors, a steel walkway and safety railings in the hold. This gap enabled the doors of the container to be opened sufficiently for a man to enter the container and the cartons of computer equipment passed out through the open door.

Further investigations showed that in the case of the two containers examined routinely by Customs these had been stowed immediately adjacent to one of the containers from which cargo had been stolen. In the other two cases, empty containers had either been stowed adjacent or nearby.

It was clear from all the enquiries that stevedores at the port were obtaining details of containers stuffed with this valuable cargo which were due to be discharged and also the stowage positions of empty boxes which were also scheduled to be landed at Santos.

During the twelve or more hours between the time that the vessels came alongside and the boxes in question were actually discharged, the stevedores were busy in the holds below deck, out of view, stripping the contents of full containers and putting them in empties which could later be taken out of the terminal without the stringent security measures applied to loaded boxes.

The vessels' agents have placed security guards onboard whilst the vessel is in port but it will be difficult for these guards to prevent this type of theft.

Signum have recommended that, if possible, 20-foot boxes instead of the usual 40-foot be used to carry this cargo and the containers stowed door to door, above deck on tiers 86 and 88, in order that it is impossible to open the doors. Even if 40-foot containers are used, these too should be stowed on the third or fourth tier above deck.

With the stevedores at this port now knowing that they can open container doors up to 300mm whilst they are stowed in the racks below deck and the fact that the cargo is being stolen onboard before passing over the ship's rail, it is important that empty containers are, if possible, stowed above deck in higher tiers to prevent other cargo which could be passed through this relatively small gap being stolen.