• ITVI.USA
    15,859.850
    -49.550
    -0.3%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.773
    -0.003
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.460
    -0.150
    -0.7%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,864.700
    -50.600
    -0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,859.850
    -49.550
    -0.3%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.773
    -0.003
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.460
    -0.150
    -0.7%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,864.700
    -50.600
    -0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

NEWS FLASH: Ag shippers detail container weight regulation concerns

A new position paper from the Agriculture Transport Coalition lays out options such as delaying enforcement of the SOLAS verified gross mass requirement or allowing weight variance, and requests a congressional inquiry into the IMO.

   The Agriculture Transport Coalition today released a new position paper detailing a host of concerns about the revision to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty that will require shippers to provide container weights before cargo is loaded on the ship.
   The SOLAS rule, which requires shippers to provide the “verified gross mass” (VGM) of containers, was adopted by the International Maritime Organization in November 2014 and is slated to go into effect July 1, 2016.
   AgTC is asking the United States government to consider various options to ease compliance issues with the rule, including asking the U.S. to delay implementation of the rule until its top 15 trading partners also begin enforcement, allowing shippers to provide approximate weights, and having the Coast Guard allow public comment to ensure “best practices can be implemented.”
   The group is also calling for a “Congressional inquiry into the International Maritime Organization process, the means by which the United States can be bound, and how this rule was adopted without US exporter or importer notice or input, or consideration of impact on US economy.”
   The International Maritime Organization is an arm of the United Nations, and the U.S. has been a member since its inception, joining in 1950, said Natasha Brown, media and communications officer at the IMO’s London headquarters. Brown said there has been no discussion about delaying implementation of the SOLAS regulation.
   The container weight rules were developed in reaction to concerns by carriers about misdeclared container weights, which have been blamed for causing or contributing to maritime accidents.
   The World Shipping Council and the International Chamber of Shipping in 2010 first called for an international solution to the problem of misdeclared container weights to be developed through the IMO, according to a timeline posted on the council’s website.
   In its paper today, AgTC said the IMO “did not reference any instance where a ship had been damaged or sunk exclusively due to overweight under reported containers.”
   After several years of discussion, the container weight rules were adopted by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee on Nov. 21, 2014 despite opposition from some shipper groups in Europe and Asia.
   The Global Shippers Forum, to which both the U.S. National Industrial Transportation League and Canada’s Freight Management Association belong, backed the IMO rule, noting it was a compromise that allowed shippers to either weigh a packed container or calculate the weight by weighing individual packages and cargo items and adding it to the tare weight of the container and items such as pallets and dunnage.
   In a press release, AgTC called the requirement to provide container weights “a dramatic change from current shipping practices.”
   “Currently, the shipper is responsible to accurately report the weight of its cargo,” the group said. “The shipper does not own, control, or maintain the containers which are owned/leased by the carriers.”
   The agriculture shippers group said “shippers, steamship lines, terminal operators, and governments are scrambling to create best practices and implementation guidance for this new rule,” adding that according to “individuals with intimate familiarity with the export supply chain process, this rule will create major turmoil at the marine terminals and a very significant impediment to US exports.”
   “This rule was never submitted to Congress, no committee or subcommittee of Congress ever reviewed it,” AgTC noted. “It was not reviewed or approved by a Federal agency, nor published in the Federal Register. There has been no input from the shipping community.”
   The position paper called for addressing shipper concerns through some combination of the following six options:
     • Creation of a stakeholder group by the Federal Maritime Commission and Coast Guard;
     • Requiring exporters only to be responsible for certifying and submitting the weight of cargo, and making the steamship line responsible for submitting the weight of their containers, which AgTC says can very greatly;
     • Allowing weight variance of plus or minus five percent as the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency is doing;
     • Having the Coast Guard create a list of standard weights for various sizes and types of container, which the shipper could simply add to cargo weight in order to comply with the rule;
     • Not implementing the rule until the top 15 trading partners, as measured by ocean container volumes, of the United States have implemented it to prevent putting U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage;
     • And requiring the Coast Guard to provide a means to receive public comment, and delay enforcement until such input is collected, all stakeholders agree on best practices for VGM implementation, and the Coast Guard is satisfied that U.S. commerce will not be detrimentally impacted.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.

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