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  May 24th, 2016 | Written by

IMO: Flexibility Warranted in Enforcement of Container Weight Rule

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  • UK authorities announced it would be enforcing SOLAS regulation with a “light touch” for the first three months.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard: Shippers may collaborate with ports and terminal operators when providing VGM to carrier.
  • IMO recommends leeway in enforcement of SOLAS rule to rectify problems with software updates.

The International Maritime Organization, the UN agency responsible for the promulgation of the new rule requiring shippers to provide verified container weights to ocean carriers, is recommending that enforcement agencies “take a practical and pragmatic approach” when enforcing the rule.

The IMO advice recommends that this period of flexibility last for three months following July 1, 2016, the date when the rule goes into effect.

The IMO approach is similar to the taken by UK authorities, which announced it would be enforcing the new regulation with a “light touch” for the first three months.

The new rule takes the form of an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty and requires that shippers provide a verified gross mass (VGM) of packed containers to shipping companies as a condition of being loaded on vessels.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the agency responsible for the enforcement of SOLAS in the United States, has stated that shippers may collaborate with ports and terminal operators when providing the VGM to the carrier.

The IMO advice came as a result of concerns raised with regard to specific shipping scenarios, such as a situation in which a container was loaded before July 1 and then transshipped. Under the IMO recommendation, containers loaded before July 1 but transshipped on or after July 1 would reach their destinations without a VGM.

The IMO also recommends that authorities also provide some leeway “in the first few months” after July 1 so that problems with software updates, required for the electronic collection and transmittal of verified gross mass data, to be resolved without causing delays to containers being loaded.

The IMO also reminded shippers, carriers, and other maritime transportation stakeholders that “the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers, is not limited to the provision and use of VGM information” and is also covered by a number of other SOLAS regulations.