An urgent, coordinated action by national authorities regarding SOLAS container weighting rules is needed, urged European organizations representing shippers, freight forwarders, terminal operators and port authorities.
In November 2014, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) prescribed that all packed shipping containers need to have a verified gross mass (VGM) before they can be loaded on a ship for export. The amended SOLAS convention comes into force from 01 July 2016, after which date all “shippers” must declare to the carrier in advance the verified weight of packed containers.
“To ensure that the implementation of the new legal requirements does not create competition distortion through a patchwork of varying national measures, Member States should pursue a coordinated European approach, taking into consideration the national guidelines of other Member States when deciding on national rules,” a joint statement from CLECAT, ESC, ESPO and FEPORT said.
What is more, the organizations believe that when drafting guidelines, focus should be put on: tolerances applying to weighing equipment and the certification of those shippers approved to issue VGM certificates using Method 2 based upon common standards and programs or other existing obligations or recommendations to provide the container weight.
Regarding the accuracy of weighing equipment, it is important that countries around Europe adopt similar standards on certification which are not overly restrictive.
European organizations say that national authorities need to communicate the accepted tolerance level for weighing equipment used to issue, and where necessary verify a declared VGM in advance of July 1.
The VGM and any other relevant information should always be told to the carrier and subsequently to the terminal operator by the shipper, according to the organizations’ recommendations. It is necessary to say this information at the earliest opportunity, otherwise, there is a possibility that the terminal will refuse entry of the container.
“The carrier and terminal operator are not responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the VGM provided by the shipper. All actors are entitled to rely on the VGM declared by the shipper as being accurate. If no VGM has been established, a container cannot be loaded on a vessel,” according to the organizations’ joint statement.
In January 2016, the Federation of European Private Port Operators (FEPORT) also called on national authorities to develop guidelines regarding SOLAS requirements.