By Julie Landry
Director, Government Affairs
A new International Maritime Organization (IMO) rule requiring shippers to physically weigh containers and their contents (the total verified gross mass) before being loaded at the port of origin is expected to come into effect on July 1, 2016. The United States is one of 162 signatory nations to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention, which has long been in effect and governs basic maritime safety standards. This new weight verification requirement is an amendment to SOLAS in an effort to prevent accidents due to improper loading.
The United State Coast Guard (USCG) was party to the discussions leading up to the new amendment but has offered very little guidance or information concerning implementation and enforcement. Countries around the world are issuing different plans for complying as are vessel operators, carriers and terminal operators. In many cases the current electronic logistics systems used to relay information between shipper and carrier aren't set up to transmit this new information. AF&PA members have expressed concern as to how they will meet this new requirement, as failure to do so will result in a “do not load” order for containers and possible penalties. And many shippers are concerned with the new liability the amendment places on their companies, as one person has to sign off on the VGM.
Logistics changes cost time and money. And possible backlogs at the terminal or do not load orders could cost customers. AF&PA is working with other organizations to educate Congress and the Administration on our concerns with this new rule. But given the international treaty this new requirement is part of, a clear path forward for answers remains uncertain.