Shippers, are you ready for the new container weight rules?
Do you export your goods in an ocean-going cargo container? If so, are you ready for the amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) that go into effect July 1? The amendments require shippers of packed cargo containers (regardless of who packed it) to ensure that the container's verified gross mass (VGM) is stated in the shipping document. How can you prevent your containers from being left on the docks under these new rules?
These were some of the critical issues addressed at a recent meeting held for members of the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) and facilitated by the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) and the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).
At that meeting, the MAJ presented the latest developments impacting the country's exporters. The authority, which is leading the implementation of the SOLAS amendments in Jamaica, advised that it has drafted guidelines to assist the industry's compliance. These guidelines will be shared with the SAJ for comments before being circulated to the various stakeholders.
In the interim, members of the MAJ and SAJ in attendance strongly urged the exporters/shippers to work with their partners in the supply chain to ensure their containerised exports meet the new requirements by the implementation deadline.
The meeting put exporters in direct contact with these partners, providing a forum for open dialogue and development of a united approach in ensuring compliance with the new container weight verification requirements.
Who is the shipper?
The shipper is defined as a legal entity or person named on the bill of lading or sea waybill or equivalent multimodal transport document as the shipper and who (or in whose name or on whose behalf) a contract of carriage has been signed with a shipping company.
What can shippers do now to prepare?
- Open the dialogue with your agents, shipping lines and port terminals. Enquire what documentation is required as verification of declared container weight.
- Consider whether you have (or have access to) the appropriate certified weighing equipment that are calibrated and certified by the competent State authority (in Jamaica, the Bureau of Standards is this authority).
- If not, determine how and where you can access this equipment. Consider contracting with third parties or the terminal port (in cases where they are offering this service) so that they may conduct the weighing of the container and provide the weight to the shipper for verification.
- Review your transportation contracts to see if they need to be revised and amended to reflect who will conduct the actual weighing of the product and container and how the shipper will verify and relay that verified information to the carrier and port.
- Review your insurance coverage to determine what, if any, additional coverage you will need to obtain to protect against damages caused by inaccurate VGMs.
How can you determine VGM under the new SOLAS amendments?
There are two methods:
(1) weigh the packed container using calibrated and certified equipment (e.g., use a weigh bridge and then subtract the verified weight of the truck, chassis and fuel); or
(2) Weigh all packages and items within the container, including packaging, pallets, and securing materials, and add to that the tare weight of the container using calibrated and certified equipment.
This VGM must be provided "sufficiently in advance, as required by the master or his/her representative, to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan". If the VGM of the packed container is not provided and verified by the shipper, the carrier and terminal port are not permitted to load the container on the ship. In other words, the container with all of the shipper's products will be left at the port, likely incurring demurrage charges, until the VGM is provided for the next scheduled sailing.
Where can you find out more?
Please visit the IMO web page: Verification of the gross mass of a packed container
Download the text of the SOLAS regulations.
Download the IMO Guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo.
Download MSC.1/Circ.1548 Advice to Administrations, port State control authorities, companies, port terminals and masters regarding the SOLAS requirements for verified gross mass of packed containers.