Container weight reforms to have haulage impact

By: Rob McKay

Safety initiative likely to mean new truck and container scales are needed despite existing ones being NHVL-compliant

Container weight reforms to have haulage impact
The SOLAS reforms link sea- and land-freight issues.


An international container weight reform aimed at the shipping industry primarily looks to be causing land haulage and wider international logistics industry concerns.

New Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) verified gross mass (VGM) regulations are due to come into effect in July and the nation’s shipping watchdog, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has consulted port haulage firms, shipping lines, exporters, freight forwarding and customer broking representatives and stevedores about the likely impact.

Though port haulage firms are victims as well, the thrust of the reform is to tackle over-weight containers that have caused serious damage to ships by strengthening weighing rules.

It is understood that there is some concern about where the compliance burden lies and who picks up the tab for costs of non-compliance if ship masters refuse to load overweight containers.

After one SOLAS consultation meeting, Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) warns that weighing equipment that may be compliant under the Heavy Vehicle National Law risk falling short mid-next year.

"Although declaring weights on the PRA (Pre Receival Advice) is already required, the changes in law will necessitate the weighing of packed containers, or weighing of cargo and other materials to be carried out using calibrated and certified equipment (such as weighbridges, platform scales, pallet or industrial scales) to obtain accurate measurements," CTAA tells its members.

"Therefore, the container weight is to be verified using ‘Trade Standard" weighing devices. ‘Trade Standard’, as determined by the National Measurement Institute (the Commonwealth Government agency), is significantly greater than currently required under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) or the existing Marine Orders Part 42 under the Navigation Act (regulating the shipping aspects of containers)."

While those who merely transport export containers will remain unaffected, plenty of firms provide related services.

For instance, CTAA notes: "For those companies engaged in packing out containers on behalf of an exporter, these changes may require the investment in ‘trade standard’ weighing devices."

Meanwhile, international shipping electronic marketplace INTTRA’s customer survey reveals a significant proportion of its 410 respondents, including some of the world’s biggest names in modal and intermodal freight transport, expressing concerns about industry and customer readiness.

Its members are now seeking to facilitate a smoother transition towards compliance through what has been dubbed the ‘eVGM Initiative’.

INTTRA reports 30 per cent of respondents said they expected that their company and/or their customers will be prepared for compliance when the regulations are implemented in July 2016; 48 per cent said they "have their doubts", and 10 per cent said no.

Two-thirds of respondents, or 66 per cent, said they expected either a moderate or major disruption in the industry.

Most disruption is seen in the Asia-Pacific region, at 42 per cent of respondents, followed by Africa with 22 per cent.

INTTRA says, as a neutral, central party in the ocean industry, it launches the eVGM Initiative to facilitate a smooth, collaborative transition to industry-wide VGM compliance through digital means.

The move aims to:

state a preference for electronic submission through a "digital-first" approach to SOLAS VGM compliance that allows trading partners ample time for preparations.

support safety and efficiency by developing an industry community to foster agreement or consensus on a technology standard and standard business process for digital documentation of VGM submissions.

The initiative is bringing together experts from carriers and non-vessel owning common carriers (NVOCCs), freight forwarders and shippers, terminal operators and port authorities, government regulators, and rail and trucking operators.

To date, more than 100 industry participants are registered in the eVGM Forum, an online discussion group for shipping professionals. Several companies are actively engaged in the Initiative, including APL, BDP International, CEVA, Damco, Hapag Lloyd, Hamburg Sud, Kuehne + Nagel, UASC and other INTTRA carriers.

"Some have said that SOLAS VGM could be to the ocean shipping industry what Y2K was to the broader business world," of INTTRA Marketplace president Inna Kuznetsova says.

"These survey results are consistent with that, as they reflect concerns over potential disruption and lack of preparedness.

"We believe that coordinated action can facilitate a smooth transition. That is the basis of the eVGM Initiative."

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook