IMO Members Slowly Begin to Release Guidance on New Container Weight Rule

As the July 1, 2016, effective date for SOLAS implementation approaches, international surveys from the global shipping industry revealed some disturbing information that could lead to more troubled waters regarding new verified gross mass (VGM) declarations. The results made two things apparent about the current stage of SOLAS Implementation. One is that shippers and their intermediaries feel concerned and confused about the Safety of life at Sea (SOLAS) container rules. And the other is something more disconcerting from the surveys because the data showed that the current amendment provided ample time for the shipping industry and flag countries to prepare for the new rule. Even though the new rule states shippers are responsible for the declaring correct VGM, the lack of government intervention for such an ambiguous mandate makes it difficult for shippers to comply quickly without standardization and organization from a state authority.

Although there is still uncertainty and disorder with SOLAS, some solutions are appearing. Following Hong Kong’s release of guidelines in early April, China’s Ministry of Transport finally released its own at the end of the month, affirming Chinese terminals will not load containers aboard vessels without a certified VGM. The guidance authorized the management at major Chinese ports to inspect VGM of packed containers randomly. While most countries believe that Method 1 will account for a significant proportion of all declarations regarding the actual weight of the containers, there are indications China may use Method 2 instead. Thus, costs of weighing the container will also vary, and for example, range from no costs up to $250 in the United States.

In contrast to the long-waited for guidance from China, the U.S. will likely not create additional regulations to meet SOLAS. The Coast Guard hopes this strategy will foster an environment that provides flexible solutions such as the proposed certified weighing services being offered at the Port of Charleston in South Carolina. Charleston is one of the few major U.S. ports that will not reject a container without VGM, but will offer certified weighing services for only $25. With this substantial change coming soon to the global shipping industry in July, the combination of the lack of preparedness by shippers and the strict enforcement of VGM by U.S. ports creates a perfect storm for havoc and service disruption at the terminals. Please download our next volume of our SOLAS whitepaper series below that focuses on the different VGM practices from IMO member nations and major ports. Please contact your OCEANAIR representative for more information.

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