SOLAS – A SOFT START

June, 2016

Container Loading to ShipThe Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations, set to take effect on July 1st, require the shipper to provide the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of the combined weight of the cargo, dunnage and container prior to cargo being loaded upon a vessel.

 

There has been considerable pressure on the rule making body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), ocean carriers and terminal operators to find a better approach to the weight submission guidelines outlined in the rule.  As a refresher, SOLAS identified two options to calculate the VGM:  1) Weigh the cargo, packaging, pallets, dunnage and add in the tare weight of the container, or 2) weigh the loaded container and subtract the weight of the truck, chassis and fuel.  

 

US exporters have been pushing for alternatives to these two calculation methods. They contend providing the VGM in the manner dictated by the IMO is redundant to weight submission guidelines already present in the US.  Currently, exporters are required to provide the gross and net cargo weights, and terminals in the US are mandated by OSHA to weigh loaded containers.  As such, there are other options to obtain the VGM than those outlined by the IMO.  And, the US Coast Guard, the agency responsible for enforcement, agrees.

 

Given this pushback, the question of enforcement as well as differing interpretations around the world, the IMO has recommended “a practical and pragmatic approach when verifying compliance…for a period of three months after 1 July 2016.” The statement goes on to say this grace period is granted with the intention of “providing flexibility…to refine, if necessary, the procedures for documenting, communicating and sharing VGM information.

 

It would seem the hard stance of “no VGM, no load” is beginning to soften in favor of less disruptive compliance options.