U.S. Declares an Equivalency to SOLAS Regulation

containers lowCompliance by July 1 with the International Maritime Organization’s Safety of Life at Sea container weight mandate right around the corner? The U.S. Coast Guard issued a declaration of equivalency for two compliant methods of obtaining the verified gross mass (VGM) of the export shipment.

A couple examples of acceptable methods announced by the Coast Guard are: (1) the terminal weighs the container, and when duly authorized, verifies the VGM on behalf of the shipper, and (2) the shipper and carrier reach agreement whereby the shipper verifies the weight of the cargo, dunnage, and other securing material, and the container’s tare weight is provided and verified by the carrier.

In February, the South Carolina Port Authority was the first in the United States to announce that it would provide a weighing service for containers at the port. The port continues to test its in-terminal container-weighing services. The port claims that this method is not much different from weighing methods already compliant with U.S. laws and regulations.

Here are the details from the U.S. Coast Guard’s statement:

All things being equal – The Coast Guard has filed a declaration of equivalency asserting that existing U.S. laws on verifying shipping container weights are adequate to comply with the new SOLAS international shipping weight measurement requirements. The declaration states that “current regulatory regime provides for other entities within the container export chain to work in combination with the shipper to determine and verify container weights.”

What does that mean? Now, ocean carriers have extra encouragement to work with shippers to find the least-onerous or least-costly methods to verify the weight of containers and their contents. The ongoing controversy surrounding this issue has been so fraught, it’s attracted the attention of Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune; last month, he talked about the “great need for carriers to sit down with shippers, and for both parties to come to a mutually agreeable path forward.”

The international shipping community is at the helm of compliance, not South Carolina nor the Coast Guard. At the heart is fairness and compliance across all scales of exporters and carriers around the globe. Stay tuned for more updates to come.

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