IMO Announces 90 Day Grace Period for SOLAS

 Container Ship

With continued confusion and unsettled concerns over SOLAS, the International Maritime Organization, on May 20, announced a 90 day grace period for shippers who must provide the Verified Gross Mass of containers and their contents starting July 1. The IMO stated they wish to provide “flexibility to all the stakeholders in containerized transport to refine, if necessary, procedures for documenting, communicating and sharing VGM information."

Some major U.S. East Coast ports have stepped forward to offer container weighing and certifying on their premises. Ports have always weighed containers to comply with OSHA regulations, and the statement of equivalency announced by the U.S. Coast Guard on April 28 creates the opportunity for ports and terminals to help shippers comply with SOLAS. The Port of Charleston set the precedent in the U.S. by offering container weighing services, and other container terminals such as the Port of Newark Container Terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey have offered to weigh containers as well. Competition among ports may drive down prices, as the Port of Charleston scrapped their $25 fee after the Port of Savannah offered to weigh containers at no charge. West Coast ports appeared to have adopted a “wait and see” approach but recent indications show they may follow the East Coast lead.

Internationally, a handful of significant ports have opted to weigh and certify containers. Shenzhen’s Yantian International Container Terminal, the main gateway for China’s exports in the Pearl River Delta, will offer weighing services. Modern Terminals’ facilities in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Taicang near Shanghai will also follow suit. In the UK, the Port of Felixstowe, the country’s busiest port, will weigh containers and expects 70 percent of shippers to use their weighing services. Russia’s second largest container terminal and a major Singapore terminal operator will also start weighing containers for SOLAS.

We eagerly await other ports in the U.S. and worldwide to also offer on-terminal weigh options to comply with SOLAS. The Agricultural Transportation Coalition (AgTC) reports that some carriers are accepting container weights generated at terminals, while others are adjusting their systems to accept the cargo weight and then adding the container weight themselves and submitting the VGM to the terminal for the shipper, which is the “rational method” long advocated by AgTC. With recent developments in the U.S. and worldwide, we are hopeful SOLAS rule compliance will be implemented using the “rational method” and avoid disruptions to the supply chain.

Photo courtesy of Ingrid Taylar


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