Port of Baltimore terminal first in U.S. to offer container weighing service
Terminal operator Ports America says it will accept containers without the required container weight data and, if necessary, allow boxes to be weighed afterwards for compliance with the International Maritime Organization's new verified gross mass rule.
The Seagirt terminal at the Port of Baltimore is the first U.S. marine facility that will offer onsite weighing of containers to help shippers comply with a July 1 international deadline for providing a shipment’s verified gross mass (VGM) to the ocean carrier and terminal operator.
Ports America, the company which operates the Seagirt cargo facility, announced Monday that it will allow loaded containers to be delivered to its yard before the container weight data is transmitted to the carrier (and ultimately the terminal), but if the information is not in its system by the vessel cut off time it will weigh boxes for a fee or allow boxes to be trucked to an offsite scale to be weighed and returned.
The announcement from Ports America’s Chesapeake unit is a departure from how most other ports so far plan to deal with the new rules being implemented by the container shipping lines.
The container weight rules were promulgated two years ago by the International Maritime Organization, part of the United Nations, in reaction to carrier concerns about mis-declared container weights and overstuffed boxes contributing to accidents at sea and on shore.
Since 1994, regulations under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty and U.S. law have required shippers to provide the ship masters with the gross weight of the cargo prior to loading. Vessel operators are not supposed to load containers that do not come with certified weights. The SOLAS amendment essentially removes the ability of cargo owners to estimate the weight of ocean shipments on shipping documents.
There are two allowable methods by which shippers can determine a container’s weight – weighing the container after it is packed or weighing all contents of the container, including packing materials, and adding that weight to the weight of the empty container. The weight is considered certified when someone at the company signs the shipping documents.
Terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland have stated that they will not weigh boxes at their facilities because the infrastructure to do so does not exist. Meanwhile, most terminals are expected to follow the Port of Virginia’s declared intention of not accepting any containers at the gate or rail yard that does not have the VGM prior to arrival because they do not want to store extra boxes for an undetermined period of time.
The South Carolina Ports Authority has said it already weighs all export containers entering terminal gates for its own needs and that it would consider providing the data to shippers if requested.
Global terminal operator DP World has said it will charge about $190 to weigh containers that arrive at its terminals in the Canadian ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver without a VGM.
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