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U.S. Coast Guard Makes Announcement on Enforcement of SOLAS Requirements

As the global scramble to implement the new SOLAS requirements continues, the U.S. Coast Guard outlined its enforcement policies in a session to listen to industry concerns over the significant changes of verified gross mass (VGM) of containers coming to the global shipping industry. At the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) hosted the session, the Coast Guard announced that “it will not consider delaying the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) controversial new container weight rule and the agency cannot, and will not, hold shippers responsible for not providing container weight documentation to carriers.” The Coast Guard is passing the documentation enforcement on to the carriers because the regulations promote better businesses practices, not new legalities for the agency.

This announcement makes it clear that carriers must enforce VGM documentation before a shipper’s container will be allowed to board a vessel. Keeping the pressure on enforcement of VGM on the carriers to pass on to the shippers should come as no surprise from the Coast Guard. The agency has remained steadfast that its involvement in enforcement was only going to be incidental, and it was not going to command operational rules. Before this session, the Coast Guard already stated that it did not have any particular enforcement plans for the VGM of containers.

Even though U.S. shippers had a chance to make their case to delay the implementation of the new container weight regulations at this session, it does not look like the U.S. government will inform the IMO of the delay. The SOLAS convention defines the role of government as the compliance enforcer, but it can legally delay enforcement for a year as Russia may do. U.S. Shippers are pushing to delay the implementation of these new regulations for up to a year because the U.S. is not ready for these changes because there are not established industry standards for VGM information flow.

OCEANAIR began publishing information about the new SOLAS regulations last July on our blog and have continued with several updates. Our customers raised several questions about the impact these new requirements will have on their business processes and supply chain. However, as July 1, 2016, deadline approaches many questions are still unanswered even though various aspects of the compliance processes for meeting the regulations are already underway. With this substantial change coming up soon to the global shipping industry, OCEANAIR is dedicating a monthly blog series to present an overview of the latest status of the implementation of these requirements. For further information, please download the whitepaper or contact your OCEANAIR representative.

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