Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Chairman Mario Cordero commended the Coast Guard for issuing a bulletin last week on how shippers can comply with the new requirement that shippers provide the verified gross mass of containers before they are loaded on ships.
The container weight requirement is part of new amendments to the International Maritime Organization’s Safety of Life at Sea Treaty (SOLAS) that come into force on July 1.
“I commend the Coast Guard for issuing its Marine Safety Information Bulletin last week declaring ‘...the United States has determined that the regulatory regime in the United States for providing verified weights of containers to ship Masters is equivalent to the requirements provided for...’ by SOLAS amendments,” said Cordero.
“I hope this action permits shippers, carriers, and marine terminal operators to have the knowledge necessary to continue to move cargo efficiently, reliably, and without interruption come July 1st.”
Cordero was in Oakland, Calif. to participate in a panel discussion about the SOLAS rule during a luncheon hosted by Women in Logistics (WIL) and the Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC).
The Coast Guard bulletin and declaration of equivalency filed with the IMO, “seems to allow for more flexibility than people thought,” he said in an interview before the luncheon.
In addition to having shippers weigh a loaded container or adding the weight of the contents of the container (cargo and dunnage) to the tare weight of the containers and submitting that weight to the carrier, the Coast Guard said last week
, “Shippers, carriers, terminals, and maritime associations have outlined
multiple acceptable methods for providing verified gross mass (VGM)."
"A couple examples are: (1) the terminal
weighs the container, and when duly authorized, verifies the VGM on
behalf of the shipper, and (2) the shipper and carrier reach agreement
whereby the shipper verifies the weight of the cargo, dunnage, and other
securing material, and the container’s tare weight is provided and
verified by the carrier,” USCG said in the bulletin.
Cordero noted though the FMC does not have jurisdiction over SOLAS, the agency has been actively trying facilitate discussions on how shippers can comply with the rule.
“Since the beginning of the year, we have tried to be of help on this issue through the forum we hosted at Commission headquarters in February, and via ongoing engagement of carriers, shippers, and terminal operators,” said Cordero. “Going forward we will continue to be engaged on this issue and remain willing to be of assistance should the need arise and our help is sought.”
“The bottom line is that it is a safety issue, and an issue that has been discussed for many years,” he added, noting that the IMO rule parallels the concerns about the weights of trucks and containers travelling over highways in the U.S.
Maryanna Kersten, senior manager international logistics at Del Monte Foods, said that complying with the SOLAS VGM rule will be very complicated, very labor intensive and, as such, will increase overall transportation costs. She believes there is still a great deal of confusion and lack of understanding about the rule and its ramifications.
Kersten expressed concern about the rulemaking process at IMO, which has limited input from shippers, unlike the rulemaking processes at U.S. Customs and Department of Transportation.
If shippers had been more involved in developing the IMO rule, she suggested, “it might have addressed -- if that kind of dialog had started in 2001 -- the questions that we are dealing with now, 60 days before the implementation of this rule.”
Donald J. Kassilke, counsel for the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA), a group of 19 carriers who published a “best practices” document on how to deal with the SOLAS VGM requirement said that if there are shippers who cannot comply with those recommendations that they should speak with their customers.