With the July 1, 2016, deadline quickly approaching, the US Coast Guard has offered guidance regarding SOLAS. In their April 28, 2016, declaration on Equivalency to Regulation, they offer multiple acceptable methods for providing verified gross mass (VGM).
The Coast Guard has determined that existing US laws and regulations for providing verified container weights are equivalent to the requirements in SOLAS; the Coast Guard notes that the current regulatory regime “provides for other entities within the container export chain to work in combination with the shipper to determine and verify container weights, and it provides ships’ masters with container weights in order to ensure ships are loaded and operated safely.”
Acceptable methods for providing VGM:
- Shipper gets entire container weighed on a certified scale.
- Shipper weighs all packages and adds tare weight of container, visible on the container door.
a. Needs to include all packaging materials, pallets, and dunnage
b. No estimates are permitted
c. Not acceptable for cargo such as scrap metal, bulk grain, other bulk cargo, or cargo types that do not lend themselves to individual weighing
The methods outlined above acknowledge and rely upon a “dynamic and flexible” business relationship between shippers and carriers to ensure compliance with the SOLAS amendments that come into effect July 1, 2016.
In coordination with the Coast Guard’s April 28 announcement, port authorities in several states have declared their intent to provide container weights to exporters: both the Ports America Terminal Operator at the Port of Baltimore and Port of Newark Container Terminal at the Ports of NY/NJ have stated that they will be offering fee based container-weighing services to shippers. The Port Authority of Georgia and Port of Charleston in South Carolina both announced they will be weighing shippers’ containers at no cost, while a spokesman from the Port of Virginia did not comment on whether the port intended to charge for its service. The Virginia port authority, however, did announce that a more detailed operating policy on the matter would be forthcoming.
While some East Coast ports are offering container-weighing services in order to help shippers comply with SOLAS regulations, terminals in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex have concerns about the service. A spokesman said that terminal operators are uncertain they can weigh export containers with the precision that might be required under SOLAS, which could intensify gate congestion, especially at the largest US port complex.
In addition to the aforementioned Port Authorities SOLAS determinations, the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA), a group of 19 container lines, plans to issue a common tariff rule within the next week, stating that customers “won’t be held legally liable for inaccuracies in the container tare weight when generating a VGM under the new rule.”
With the deadline for SOLAS fast approaching, Deringer will continue to monitor any changes and provide updates. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact Deringer’s Compliance Department.