SOLAS will become effective next week. There has been a flurry of compliance processes and requirements published by Vessel Carriers, NVOCC’s and Marine Port Terminals. NCBFAA continues to collect and post these notices keeping in mind many are changing as we speak. We are seeing an interesting trend develop which may change previously posted notices.
On June 16, 2016, the Federal Maritime Commission publically and strongly encouraged the ocean carrier community to accept already available weights as provided by the Marine Terminals to lessen the burden on shippers. The notice further supports the Coast Guard’s position that the United States currently complies with providing accurate weights, the ultimate purpose of SOLAS. The full notice is available here.
OCEMA, an association of 19 major carriers have released a statement supporting the use of terminal scales to obtain the Verified Gross Mass (VGM). This change of heart has come about due to tireless efforts of our NCBFAA Counsel, officers, committee members and other associations, including the shipping community.
While this is a wonderful trend, it does not mean that shippers are not required to provide the VGM to those carriers and marine terminals who haven’t yet agreed to weigh and accept the VGM from other sources. NCBFAA will continue to collect and post notices on our website. To assist our OTI membership, the Transportation Committee has developed this VGM submission form that may be utilized by shippers to supply the VGM to those carriers requiring submission. The Committee also updated the SLI form to reflect these regulatory changes.
Please continue to check with each individual carrier and terminal on their requirements to ensure your clients are in compliance.
As part of the continuing fallout from the new SOLAS container weight rules, members of the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers are urging container lines to disclose the cut-off times for the sending of verified gross mass declarations, warning of containerized supply chain disruption if communication doesn’t improve regarding the SOLAS container weight rule.
These importers need to build extra time into their supply chains so that they can transmit their VGMs so stowage plans can be made and the containers loaded onto ships.
HTC presents SOLAS: The new container weight rules
For those in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area, the Harbor Transportation Club is hosting a panel discussion on SOLAS, the new container weight rules, which are the cause of much frustration and confusion for the trade.Effective July 1, 2016, any shipping container leaving from any port in the world must be accompanied by a shipping document signed either electronically or in hard copy by the shipper on the bill of lading listing the verified gross mass of a container in order to be loaded onto a ship. The container weight mandate from the International Maritime Organization under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention comes after misdeclared weights contributed to maritime casualties such as the breakup and subsequent beaching of the MSC Napoli on the southern U.K. coast in 2007 and the partial capsizing a feeder ship in the Spanish port of Algeciras in June, 2015.
Panelist will include:
Moderator – Bill Mongelluzzo, Journal of Commerce
MTO – Philip Wright, Total Terminals International
NVOCC – TBA
US Coast Guard -TBA
Legal – Cameron Roberts, Roberts & Kehagiaras LLP
Trucking – Fred Johring, Chairman Harbor Trucking Assn
Uncertainty still prevails over the new verified gross mass (VGM) requirements enacted by the International Maritime Organization earlier this year, and may adversely affect shippers in less than three months.
According to the Journal of Commerce*:
Operators of all 13 terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are ill-equipped to weigh containers according to SOLAS guidelines before they are loaded onto ships. Since the SOLAS requirements will be effective on July 1, the port complex advises that “shippers will have to make other arrangements for obtaining the required verified gross mass of the containers.”
Non-compliance with the VGM requirements can have severe consequences: OOCL, a major Hong-Kong based carrier said “the ‘no VGM, no loading’ principle would apply, and terminals observing the SOLAS Convention and/or local regulatory requirements would reject containers at the gate if no VGM was provided. In addition, the shipper would be responsible for the potential regulatory penalties and all costs associated to the exception handling of the containers without the VGM.”
A group of U.S. agricultural exporters has endorsed a Coast Guard’s admiral’s view that compliance with international container-weighing rules should be handled as a “business practice” instead of through regulatory enforcement.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition’s statement came hours after container ship lines urged Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft to countermand Rear Admiral Paul Thomas’ interpretation of new International Maritime Organization rules for container weight verification.
There has been much confusion and handwringing in the trade ever since the new verified gross mass (VGM) requirement enacted by the International Maritime Organization earlier this year.
Delayed implementation is not an option. SOLAS is an international convention ratified by the U.S. and most major flag states that applies to vessels, not ports or shippers. Most vessels loading in the U.S. are foreign-flag ships from IMO signatory countries. Those countries will implement the VGM requirement as to their vessels, and the U.S. has no say in that.
USCG will not impose fines under SOLAS with respect to inaccurate weight certificates because USCG does not believe it has any enforcement authority to do so.
USCG does not plan to adopt or publish any allowable error variance.
Regarding enforcement, USCG observes that a container without a compliant VGM certificate will be subject to a hold order and can’t be loaded, but there will be no fines. Once the container is weighed or the shipper provides a certificate, the container can be loaded.
The ultimate message from USCG is that the shipping industry must find business solutions. USCG is not convinced it needs to or has any jurisdiction to take any steps, but will continue to listen and facilitate such solutions if possible.
As for the last point, the head of the Port of Charleston has proposed a possible solution. According to the Journal of Commerce,*
“Chris Koch, a lawyer and former CEO of the World Shipping Council, which represents container lines and helped develop the Verified Gross Mass rule, said there should be no reason why a terminal couldn’t use the container weights it currently derives through the longstanding practice of weighing containers upon arrival at the terminal. Koch is also a former general counsel of Sea-Land Service Inc. and former chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.”
Not all are in agreement. As JOC points out, the ports of Savannah and Virginia, and the Maher terminal at New York-New Jersey, say they will not offer weighing services to generate the VGM. Since the SOLAS rule assigns the responsibility for generating the VGM to the shipper on the bill of lading, some terminals are understood to be concerned about their legal liability for generating an inaccurate VGM.
According to a major container line, at least 13 U.S. terminals, including Maher, have told it that they will not accept export containers without a VGM at the time of arrival.
According to American Shipper*, The US Coast Guard will meet with the Federal Maritime Commission on February 18 to hear the trade’s concerns about the new verified gross mass (VGM) requirement enacted by the International Maritime Organization. Reportedly, a United States Coast Guard officer says the agency is not planning any special effort to enforce new regulations having to do with shipping container weights.
The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee adopted the container weight requirement in November 2014 as an amendment to the international Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty. It goes into effect on July 1, 2016.