On July 1st 2016, SOLAS (Safe practices of Life at Ocean convention of the International Maritime Company, or IMO) regulations will be changing. Now shippers will have to provide the gross mass of whatever cargo they are delivering to ocean carriers or terminals. This has led to an uprising of uncertainty and frustration, without enough details of the change having been released yet.
Guidelines and legal enforcement will vary, potentially greatly, among countries, sea carriers, and marine terminals. These variations in policy are the annoyance that shippers now fear, since they will have to contend with them on a regular basis.
But one fact is startlingly true, and it is that come July 1 this will not only be international law from the IMO, but also the new law of the 162 countries that fall under the SOLAS convention. Unfortunately it appears that there will be no escaping this imminent development. As a result of this change, the shipper will now be responsible for signing the authorization of what their cargo’s gross mass is, for this information to be catalogued.
All over the world, there will be hundreds of 000 sized containers that will need to undergo this scrutiny, which as of the current time are not even being digitally recorded. This will represent another huge technical challenge to be overcome.
Current speculation is that this policy will indeed be strictly upheld, and that containers without the appropriate verifiable gross mass (VGM) will be the legal responsibility of those shipping them. This is cause for serious legal liability if one were to try and load a container with a non-approved VGM.
The trouble that this all leads to is that fact that not all terminals will be in a position to provide weighing services, and those that can will only do so if it can be accomplished without disruption to typical operations.
A growing climate of frustration was already on the rise by the beginning of the year, and this only complicates matters further, since dealing with the variety of regulations soon to be in place stands to slow the overall process of trade significantly. Worse yet, this could also be cause for incremental increase of overall performance costs. These are all issues that SOLAS is leaving up to each private party to solve on their own. Clearly, this will be a big change that may take a significant timeframe to adapt to.
For more specific concerns regarding what this change is going to entail, what legislations will be required, and what this means for shippers, you can find more information at Shipper’s Guide to Container Weight Mandate.