As the July 1 deadline approaches for the implementation of the new Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) rule, there are many concerns about the shipping industry’s preparedness to address and implement these new changes. SOLAS will prevent carriers from accepting containers onto ships without a verified gross mass (VGM) declaration. The Port of Boston is part of a consortium comprised of 6 East and Gulf coast ports and 19 ocean container lines that are proposing a solution to address the upcoming VGM changes. This group plans on taking advantage of the Coast Guard’s equivalency guidance by using port scales to provide VGM through federal and state compliant marine terminals to avoid potential supply chain disruptions. However, this program created by members of the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA) and the Ports Authorities of Boston, Houston, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia still needs approval from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and Congress.
The ports and OCEMA hope to formalize an agreement allowing them to share information and data regarding container weight information. With 6 U.S. East and Gulf coast ports and 19 ocean container lines all committed to a common strategy, they should not have a problem meeting the SOLAS container weight rule. However, this process can also lay the foundation for a common VGM framework that works beyond the effective July 1 deadline. By utilizing current operating procedures along with weighing at marine terminals, scales according to the equivalency declared by the U.S. Coast Guard will help these ports and ocean carriers to avoid service disruptions and thrive. While the current state of the shipping industry has the government, ocean lines, and shippers all giving different answers for the best ways to verify the container weight, it is reassuring to know there is at least one group with a solution that may help the industry nationally after SOLAS comes on-line.
Please note that when a container does not have a VGM, and the Port in question does not have weighing facilities, the Port in question will not allow the container to enter the Port which will result in additional expenses to the shipper of the container. If you have any questions, please contact your OCEANAIR representative.