Industry Braces For Mysterious New Container Weight Regulations

As the implementation date approaches, an unsettled cargo transport industry continues to search for more details on the upcoming container weight regulations being enforced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Amendments made to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee will require all shippers appearing on the bill of lading to verify the gross container weight of their goods before shipment. The amendments to SOLAS will help to reduce the amount of losses and general safety issues surrounding mis-declared cargo weight. However, with little details on how to comply with the ruling, many cargo companies are feeling frustrated in their search for answers. What we know right now:

  • The implementation date for the IMO’s new container weight regulations is July 1st, 2016.

  • After taking effect, the rule will  require shippers whose name appears on the bill of lading to verify the gross mass of a container carrying cargo when tendering the container to the ocean carriers and terminals. To be clear, the legally responsible party for providing a verified gross mass (VGM) signed either electronically or on paper is the shipper. This is regardless of who packs the container.

  • On July 1 the rule becomes not just international law under the IMO, but also national law within the 162 countries that are signatories to the SOLAS convention. With no set procedures, rules and legal enforcement are likely to vary widely among countries, ocean carriers and marine terminals. This is where many shippers are seeking clarification from SOLAS signatory governments and the IMO.

More than half of shippers surveyed by Intrra in October of last year said they expected either minor or major disruptions due to these new regulations. It is with that sentiment that there are growing public calls for the rule to be delayed or at least phased in, even though it appears to be a remote possibility. According to Anne Kappel, vice president of the World Shipping Council, the VGM will be enforced on July 1 and it is now up to the SOLAS member countries to enforce it. Fortunately there are private efforts underway to develop an electronic form for shippers to submit their VGM on their container shipments to carriers a few days before the ship comes ashore, giving ample time for carriers to create their stowage plans. We will continue to provide updates as more information is available. Below you will find resources from the Journal of Commerce with the latest information on the status of the IMOs container weight rules. Stay tuned.