Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Growing global concern about new container weight rules

Published:Tuesday | April 26, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Confusion and concern about the new, impending Safety of life at Sea (SOLAS) container-weight rules are mounting among shippers and those that help them move their containers globally. The stakes are high as the new regulations means that ships will reject any container unaccompanied by verified gross mass (VGM) declarations and proper weight certification.

Locally, discussions are under way among various stakeholders in the shipping and logistics sector to try to ensure that exporters, terminals, and shippers are prepared for the pending changes. However, reports from across the world suggest that with just over two months before the SOLAS amendment's global rollout, the industry could be heading for trouble. According to reports from industry news sources, including the IHS, the leading global source of critical maritime information and insight, container exporters should plan for likely port and logistics delays from July 1 when the new rules take effect.

According to their recent reports on the findings of a poll by CargoSmart, the majority of industry respondents either had no plans or had not yet finalised plans to comply with new container weight verification requirements. Thirty-six per cent of the respondents had not yet started planning; 20 per cent were not aware of the new requirements; and 20 per cent were in the discussion stage with several parties. Only four per cent of respondents had a solution in place, the survey found.

A report published recently by IHS pointed to some terminals and shippers being unprepared or even unaware of the SOLAS amendment and sounded warning bells that unless practical steps were taken, chaos and commercial disputes could be expected in July.

The SOLAS convention requires shippers to obtain the VGM of laden export containers and communicate that data to ocean carriers in advance so that the ship can plan its stowage. Carriers and terminal operators will be legally obliged to ensure that containers without a VGM are not loaded on to a ship in all 162 countries, including Jamaica, that are signatories to SOLAS and that are required to enforce the new law.