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  March 22nd, 2016 | Written by

U.S. Coast Guard Refuses to Delay Implementation of SOLAS Container Weight Requirement

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  • Under SOLAS, shippers will be required to provide ocean carriers with a verified weight for all containers.
  • Some interest groups have suggested that container weight requirement implementation must be delayed.
  • The UK adopted an acceptable error tolerance percentage of five percent for SOLAS container weight rule.

At a recent Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) meeting, the U.S. Coast Guard assistant commandant said that delayed implementation verified container weight requirements is not an option.

Rear Admiral Paul Thomas also said that the Coast Guard does not plan to adopt an allowable error variance.

Under recent amendments to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, shippers will be required to provide ocean carriers with a verified weight certificate for each loaded marine container tendered for shipping.

Various interest groups have suggested that the implementation date of July 1, 2016, must be delayed because the United States shipping industry is not ready, noting that shippers and their service providers do not have certified, calibrated equipment to weigh the volume of containers moving in export trades.

Some also have raised questions about whether shippers would be liable for certifying container weight if the tare weight of the container printed on the door is incorrect, whether the certificate process would delay negotiation of export letters of credit, and whether the Coast Guard will impose fines or publish an acceptable error tolerance percentage (such as the five-percent allowance announced by the United Kingdom).

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) sponsored a “listening session” at which various U.S. shipper and logistics service provider interest groups raised the foregoing questions and concerns. In particular, U.S. agricultural commodities shippers questioned the need for the rule, and sought a delay in the effective date of the rule to allow for preparation time.

At the conclusion of the FMC meeting, Thomas stated the Coast Guard’s positions.

Delayed implementation is not an option. “SOLAS is an international convention ratified by the U.S. and most major flag states that applies to vessels, not ports or shippers,” he said. “Most vessels loading in the U.S. are foreign-flag ships from IMO signatory countries. Those countries will implement the requirement as to their vessels, and the U.S. has no say in that.”

The U.S. Coast Guard will not impose fines under SOLAS with respect to inaccurate weight certificates. The Coast Guard “does not believe it has any enforcement authority to do so,” said Thomas. But a container without a compliant weight certificate will be subject to a hold order and can’t be loaded.

The Coast Guard does not plan to adopt or publish any allowable error variance.

The World Shipping Council noted that under SOLAS a shipper is entitled legally to rely on the tare weight of the container.