Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Penang Port slammed over overweight containers

International container shipping lines operating at Penang Port have slammed the terminal operator for not penalising shippers who overload their cargo containers on a vessel, saying it could lead to an accident.

International Ship Owners' Association of Malaysia (ISOA) secretary Fong Keng Lun said requests for enforcement have been sent to Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) as early as June last year, but so far the calls have gone unheeded.

In a letter dated June 30 2008, obtained by Business Times, the association wrote that some of its members had reported that overweight containers from southern Thailand regularly slipped through the checks at Penang Port and Padang Besar Terminal and were loaded onto the vessels.

"Some of these (overweight) containers were subsequently detected at transshipment ports like Hong Kong and were held back until the shipping lines had repacked the overweight containers.

"Shipping lines have to incur repacking costs and very often, due to time constraint, the on-carrying vessels have to sail off without the containers," ISOA said, also voicing concerns over the risks to human lives and the transportation operators' equipment.

In the same letter, the association had requested for PPSB's support to impose the rule that any overweight containers detected by the terminal operator will not be allowed to be loaded onto the vessels.

"A circular was also sent to all ISOA members on July 2 2008, urging them not to accept overweight containers," Fong told Business Times.

The maximum permissible weight of a 20-foot container is 24 tonnes, 30.48 tonnes for a 40-foot container and up to 32 tonnes for a new generation 40-foot container.

Fong said more recently the association made repeated pleas on May 6 and June 4, which have been ignored by PPSB.

"The letters were issued following news that the problem of overweight containers from South Thailand via Penang had resurfaced. The problem occurred with containers delivered by barge/feeder as well as by rail from Padang Besar," he added.

Fong said ISOA's latest calls for immediate action to stem the overweight container issue at Penang Port was also due to a March 2009 incident at Kantang Port, Thailand, which saw two barges heading for Penang Port sank due to overweight cargo.

"Today, both the Kantang terminal and barge operator are not implementing any enforcement of regulations pertaining to overweight cargo. PPSB likewise is also not implementing any check on this issue," he said.

Fong added that the association was baffled why no action had so far been taken by PPSB on the matter, when Multimodal Freight Sdn Bhd, which manages the Padang Besar Terminal, has responded favourably to similar calls made recently.

"Is PPSB waiting for another accident to happen before it takes any action?" said Fong.

In a letter signed by Multimodal Freight general manager Azman Ahmad Shaharbi, dated May 26 2009, Azman said the company will reject containers found to be overweight and agreed not to load them onto Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd's (KTMB) trains for export via Penang Port. Multimodal Freight is a wholly-owned subsidiary of KTMB.

It also pledged to install a weighing bridge for weighing all incoming containers, which is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

Source: Business Times

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