The new SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea convention of the International Maritime Organization or IMO) will require shippers whose name appears on the bill of lading to verify the gross mass of a container carrying cargo when tendering the container to the ocean carriers and terminals. This new regulation is going to affect day to day shipping. The rule is not only international law under the IMO but national law within the 170 countries and three associate members that are signatories to the organisation. Thus approximately 300,000 container weights will need to be certified each day globally. To better understand what this Container Weight Mandate will imply for the maritime sector, here are some explanations:
When does the regulation take effect?
The new regulation, called Verified Gross Mass, takes effect on July 1, 2016, and will apply to all containers loaded for export on or after that date, from any port in the world. Containers loaded prior to July 1 that are already in transit once the new rule is imposed will not be affected.
Why has it been created?
This amendment has been created to prevent the loss of life and property by avoiding and detecting weights mis-declerations before the container is loaded on board. Nowadays some shippers misdeclare cargo on the bill of lading, whether out of sloppiness, negligence or willful intent to ship more cargo than allowed for the same rate. And the impact on safety to workers, ships and cargo can be catastrophic. Indeed the shipping lines prepare the stowage plan for the containers on board based on the weight declarations and then load the containers without any weight verification. So these mis-declarations can obviously lead to dangerous situation, resulting in loss of life on board and on shore, and also in loss of property and cargo.
How to meet the container weight mandate?
How will the rule be enforced?
The rule will be enforced by the maritime authorities of individual nations, whose implementing regulations will vary depending on the country and region. As a practical matter the real-world “enforcement” that will affect shippers most directly seems most likely to be carried out directly by the container lines and terminal operators, who can be expected not to accept a container without the certified VGM document accompanying it, or to have weighing services at the ready to make containers compliant and able to be loaded. Enforcement agencies may implement measures to satisfy themselves that compliance is achieved, which could include documentation checks, auditing or random weighing. The SOLAS rule also places an obligation on the carrier and the terminal operator not to load a packed container for which no verified gross mass has been provided or obtained aboard a ship. The carriers and terminals are expected to be disciplined in their unwillingness to accept containers tendered to them without the required VGM documentation.