Shippers unprepared for Solas container weight requirement

  • Posted by Juan Pulgar 21 Jan

Shippers unprepared for Solas container weight requirement

New survey finds widespread fears of disruption and lack of preparedness with pending regulation set to take effect next summer

December 10th, 2015 18:00 GMT by Ian Lewis London Published in Weekly

Shippers have expressed concerns over rules to be introduced in July 2016 relating to the weighing of containers.

Nearly two-thirds of shippers expect moderate or major disruption when the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) verified gross mass (VGM) regulations are implemented, a new study shows.

Over one-half have not heard of or are only vaguely familiar with the pending regulation taking effect, or doubt they will be ready by the 1 July deadline, according to a survey by container shipping portal Inttra.

The new regulations stipulate that containers cannot be loaded onto ships after July 2016 until their weight has been verified, due to safety and cargo concerns.

Yet only one-third of shippers expect that their company or their customers will be prepared for compliance when the regulations are implemented. Some 48% say they “have their doubts” and 10% that they are not ready, with most disruption anticipated in Asia-Pacific (42%), followed by Africa (22%).

The survey lends substance to concerns raised last month by the Global Shippers Alliance (GSA) that called for active consultation before implementation of the Solas amendments. The GSA said it “discussed the possibility of alignment of requirements globally but agreed that it would be better for the authorities to construct their own regimes that best suit their legislative and operational environment and requirements”.

However, INTTRA appears to be pushing for a wider solution, having signed up around 100 of its customers to its eVGM Forum, an online discussion group to smooth the transition to container weighing compliance through electronic submission of Solas VGM documents.

Participating companies include APL, BDP International, CEVA, Damco, Hapag-Lloyd, Hamburg Sud, Kuhne + Nagel and United Arab Shipping Co (UASC).

“Some have said that Solas VGM could be to the ocean shipping industry what Y2K was to the broader business world,” said Inna Kuznetsova, president of INTTRA Marketplace.

“These survey results are consistent with that, as they reflect concerns over potential disruption and lack of preparedness. We believe that co-ordinated action can facilitate a smooth transition.”

Starting in July, shippers will have to either weigh filled containers or add up the weight of the box and its contents. Sources say this could make shippers liable if an incorrect weight is found to have caused damage to a ship or its cargo.

Large shippers, including Kuhne + Nagel, fear the VGM requirements might create confusion and chaos when implemented in June/July next year. Others, including BDP International, are pressing for digital means to minimise the impact of reporting requirements.

Shippers and carriers already face safety concerns related to misdeclared and undeclared cargoes, an issue that is high on the agenda of the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) meeting in Marseille this week.

Concern has risen as seven boxship fires this year, including that onboard the 8,300-teu Maersk Seoul (built 2006) in August, are suspected to have been caused by the carriage of calcium hypochlorite, a hazardous chemical cargo.

Protection-and-indemnity (P&I) sources say that while the carriage of dangerous goods in containers is governed by statutory requirements and industry best practice, some shippers are able to circumvent the safety requirements. Yet, given the volume of containers being transported on ultra large containerships (ULCs), lines generally assume information provided by the shipper is correct and complete.

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