SOLAS Issues Spread Across Industry, Regulators and International Carrier Community

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At the 11th hour, the industry is somewhat closer to a resolution to Convention of Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirement. The regulation sets forth how to determine the verified gross mass (VGM) of containers before they ship. Several groups spoke out about the issues as the July 1 compliance deadline nears.

Here is the timeline of important events.

May 4: The U.S. Coast Guard issues a declaration of equivalency for two compliant methods of obtaining the verified gross mass (VGM) of the export shipment. Basically, the Coast Guard statement held that existing U.S. laws on verifying shipping container weights are adequate to comply with the new SOLAS international shipping weight measurement requirements, and no further action is needed. However, carriers were not as welcoming of this, and confusion around who could or should be providing this information (exporters, forwarders, shippers etc.) was scrutinized.

June 16: U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero urged carriers to accept the VGM as determined by the terminal operators when containers pass through the gate. “Using the weight taken at the terminal gate for the purposes of satisfying the need for a verified weight of a container is a simple and efficient solution for assuring the continued smooth flow of export cargo,” Cordero said. He also called for direct reporting of weight from the terminal operator to the ocean carrier in the statement.

June 17: One day later, the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA) issued a statement that all carriers will accept the on-terminal scale weighing approach. The group, which represents 19 of the major U.S. and foreign ocean carriers, is working on finalizing a Terminal Weighing Approach concept and will also develop an alternative approach when this approach is not feasible. This was the first time that carriers stood together uniformly on the weight issue and provided an acceptable resolution.

Due to the heightened confusion since this rule was issued, the International Maritime Organization announced a three-month implementation plan after July 1, where regulators take a “a practical and pragmatic approach” when enforcing the new regulations related to VGM requirements.

Stay tuned for more.

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