JANUARY 28, 2016 Industry searches for ways to comply with container weight rule


As the clock ticks towards the July 1 implementation of new container weight regulations, an unsettled cargo transport   industry continues to search for ways to comply with the rule, often with frustrating results.

“There are still too many missing pieces and too many unanswered questions,” said Greg Howard, CEO of CaroTrans. “Without clarity in all the requirements, all the responsibilities, uniformity in documents and clarity on the punitive side, it   is going to be a challenging implementation, to say the least.”

The new VGM regulation, approved by the International Maritime Organization as an amendment to the Safety of Life at   Sea Convention, will be enforced around the world from July 1. Terminals  and  carriers will not be permitted  to  load       containers on or after that date unless they have received the VGM from shippers or a third  party  appointed  by  the        shipper. Shippers are required to communicate the VGM in a shipping document.

The exact nature of this document has not been spelled out, but Howard said CaroTrans, a global NVO, was working         closely with its customers and advising them on what it believed would be required. “Since there isn't a uniform verified weight document we are creating our own and providing it to customers for them to complete and provide to us with the shipping document,” he said.

“What we are doing is trying to review what will be best practice with our various (container freight stations) operations so we have proper measures in place when freight is received and that can be checked   with  what our  customers        provide us. We will be weighing cargo received into our facilities and verifying that the certificate provided by the shipper actually matches what was received into the CFS. In that way we will ensure accuracy and integrity of the weight we         then declare, before it gets gated in to the port, so we don’t run the risk of  boxes  getting  short  shrift  because they       exceed the verified weight.”

As an NVO handling huge volumes of LCL cargo, complying with the VGM rule is a complex procedure, which Howard       outlined. “For us as a consolidator we have to ensure we get it right. There are multiple customers in those consolidated 40-foot containers — an average of 15 to 20 customers — so we can’t allow one customer to impact the others because they didn’t do their job. We need to ensure there is no interruption to the supply chain because of one or two customers   in a groupage box have incorrectly declared their weight and the box cannot be loaded,” he said.

CaroTrans is investing resources in equipment, personnel and systems at its CFS to ensure that in the first two months after July 1 the company has the necessary checks and balances in place and can educate its customers on where they may have made errors.

“But the ports have not set up any scale facility outside the port that would allow the boxes to be weighed before they go in, so we will still be beholden to the certified weight of the container once it is weighed inside the port,” Howard said.

However, according to Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director for insurer TT Club, as long as shipper provided a value for the VGM, there was nothing in the regulations that required the carrier or terminal to validate that through        some kind of reality check.

“If the shipper has a process that is compliant in their jurisdiction in which it is being packed, the line has to accept on    the face of it the weight that is supplied,” he said.

A rising crescendo of demands for clear guidelines from governments that are signatories to the SOLAS convention —   around 170 countries — is coming from an increasingly frustrated industry, with growing calls for the rule to be delayed or at least phased in. It seems that is a distant possibility.

According to Anne Kappel, vice president of the World Shipping Council, the VGM will be enforced from July 1 and it is      now up to the SOLAS member countries to enforce it.

“The international regulation process is more complicated and lengthier than  passing  a  regulation  in  an    individual     country. The IMO is a United Nations body that has worked to gain consensus among governments around the world to    amend an existing convention to improve the safety of maritime shipping. It is then  up  to  the  member  countries  to         implement,” she told JOC.com.

“Since the VGM requirement is an amendment to an existing convention, it really does not require much action on the       part of governments. As spelled out quite clearly in SOLAS language, most of the actions required are to be undertaken by actors in the supply chain. The individual governments’ role is one of compliance   enforcer,  i.e. verifying  that  the        parties are doing what the SOLAS amendments clearly explain that they must do as it relates to issuance of the VGM.”

A well placed IMO  source  told JOC.com that no  current  efforts  were  underway  to  delay  the July 1  date  for  the           implementation of the SOLAS container weight rule.


| Jan 28, 2016 2:08AM EST


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