February 18th Washington DC
Ken O’Brien, Chief Operating Officer of Gemini Shippers Group, attended a listening session hosted by the Federal Maritime Commission. It was held to discuss amendments to SOLAS Regulation VI-2 regarding cargo information and the verified gross mass of containers.
These regulations, which go into effect on July 1, 2016, require that shippers, regardless of who packed the container, verify and provide the container’s gross verified weight to the ocean carrier and terminal representative prior to it being loaded onto a ship.
Rear Admiral Paul F. Thomas, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy with the U.S. Coast Guard, joined industry stakeholders to hear concerns and answer questions on the new rule and how it would be enforced in the United States.
The Admiral provided guidance on the enforcement powers of the U.S Coast Guard on this regulation and advised those in attendance that “Delayed implementation is not an option”.
Shippers and Carriers were advised to proceed quickly with preparation for the July 1 implementation. One point of clarification gained at the meeting was further insight on how shippers could go about ascertaining the certified mass of the container.
As noted in many industry journals, shippers have two acceptable methods to measure the container weight. Method one is to weigh the container once goods are loaded into the container at a truck scale prior to in-gate at the origin terminal. The second method is to weigh the cargo that is going into the container, and then add the weight to the empty container Tare Weight. Admiral Thomas assured shippers that the use of the Tare Weight stenciled on the container was acceptable and, under existing IMO guidelines, could be used under method two and that weighing of the empty container was not required.
While each shipper will have to determine the best and most cost effective method to use, our research indicates that method two can likely result in less disruption and cost in the supply chain, provided shippers can determine the exact weights of cargo being loaded at their origin factories.
Admiral Thomas also told shippers that the enforcement by US Coast Guard and maritime authorities in other countries will be on carriers and ports, and not on individual shippers. Carriers and the ship’s “flag-state” are required to abide by the IMO rules and, given this mandate, the ability to delay these rules by any one country or flag is nonexistent. The admiral noted that his agency will not be holding shippers directly accountable, noting that only carriers and vessels are party to the SOLAS amendment, not shippers. Thomas noted “There is no authority under SOLAS that requires shippers to do anything.” Carrier and terminals will however hold shippers accountable and not accept cargo without the compliant weight verification in place prior to loading.
With this in mind, we encourage Gemini members to work with their origin factories and vendors and consolidators to determine which method is best determining the gross container mass.
Geminin Shippers Group will continue to work with our carrier partners to determine their plans to capture and transmit weight information to terminal operators. We also emphasized to our carrier partners the need for detailed information on the timing of data transmission cutoffs.
Follow up questions on the listening session and container weight rules can be directed to Ken O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.