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  June 11th, 2016 | Written by

New Zealand Takes Flexible Approach to SOLAS

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  • 97 percent of New Zealand’s trade is by ship.
  • Disruption to trade during the transition to the new SOLAS regulations could cause unnecessary delays.
  • New Zealand port companies and exporters raised concerns about new container regulations.

Maritime New Zealand, a state maritime safety authority, has worked successfully at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ensure flexibility in introducing new regulations for verifying container weights.

That, says the acting director of the agency, will benefit New Zealand exporters.

“It is important to understand that about 97 percent of our country’s trade is by ship,” said Maritime New Zealand acting director Lindsay Sturt. “Disruption to that trade during the transition to the new regulations could cause unnecessary and potentially costly delays.”

Sturt added that New Zealand port companies and exporters had raised concerns about how new international regulations will be introduced on July 1, and Maritime New Zealand took up those concerns.

Under the IMO’s new regulations the shipper exporting a container must provide its verified gross mass by methods set out in the regulations. If it does not, then the container will not be loaded.

Currently, container weights are declared but some serious incidents in the past have shown inaccurate declarations and grossly understated container weights. Overseas, dangerous incidents include container stacks collapsing, and ships’ being overstressed and becoming unstable.

“The new weight verification rules are an important safety measure to help protect seafarers, cargoes and ships. We are glad they will be a requirement for international shipping,” said Sturt.

New Zealand’s two concerns were about the transition to the new regulations. Specifically, how to manage containers loaded before July 1 but that will reach their final port on or after that date, and any possible teething problems with necessary software updates, data sharing, and communication systems. The IMO has agreed to a practical and pragmatic approach for the three months after July 1.

It will permit packed containers that are loaded on a ship before July 1 to be shipped to their final port without the verified gross mass, and flexibility to refine, if necessary, procedures for documenting, communicating and sharing verified gross mass information, without stopping shipments.

“This is a great example of how we can work together as a maritime industry and have an impact on international trade issues that really matter to New Zealand,” said Sturt.