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Experts warn of dangers of extra-heavy shipping containers

Staff writer |
Maritime experts are deeply divided on how to curb the menace of overweight shipping containers, which cause severe accidents at sea and on the roads.

The difficulties of clamping down on false declarations of the weight and content of boxes were underlined during a panel discussion at the WISTA-UK Liverpool Forum, part of the International Festival for Business in the port city.

WISTA-UK, part of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association, is encouraging debate on the critical question of container weight, alongside its Came by Ship campaign, which fanfares the importance of the shipping industry to Britain.

The audience at the WISTA-UK meeting was told that insurers estimate around 20% of all containers traversing the seas and highways are overweight and that each of those boxes represents "an accident waiting to happen." The cost is heavy in financial, human and environmental terms.

Speakers gave many examples of overweight containers leading to ships losing stability and catching fire, and to fatal accidents on the roads. While ship owning and operating interests are greatly worried, interests which trade the goods say that weighing all containers ahead of shipment is unnecessary and impractical, and if made compulsory this could add as much as $5bn a year to the cost of international commerce.

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