AMSA to heed container weight flexibility call

Maritime authority says it will take reasonable steps as SOLAS reform looms

AMSA to heed container weight flexibility call
Industry feels underprepared for container-weight reforms.


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) looks set to take into account a conciliatory International Maritime Authority (IMO) call regarding the introduction of this year’s container weighing reform.

The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) verified gross mass (VGM) regulations go live on July 1 have been the source of discussion and debate locally and internationally for most of the financial year.

Some uncertainty has to do with the authorities themselves being less than clear on the rules to be enforced, an issue highlighted by changes to Marine Order 42, which relates to cargo, stowage and securing and is still undergoing revision five weeks before the deadline.

Clarification on weighing instruments was also slow, while those wanting to purchase precise, expensive and compliant models to service their clients’ needs are now battling global demand.

As the Container Transport Alliance of Australia (CTAA) noted recently: "The approved level of weighing device accuracy is tied to National Measurement Institute (NMI) technical standards, prompting discussions between container transporters and their container handling equipment suppliers to verify compliance, either through the use of existing container handling equipment (i.e. heavy forklifts / reach-stacker, on-board trailer mass monitoring, etc.), or through the acquisition of new weighing solutions."

Meanwhile, AMSA is taking an understanding approach for now.

"AMSA is taking an educative approach to achieve compliance with SOLAS container weight amendments from the 1 July implementation date," a spokesperson tells ATN.

The IMO call relates to containers packed before that date but industry concern about the lack of compliance detail is widespread.

"For containers packed in Australia before 1 July 2016 and booked to be loaded onto a ship on or after that date, shippers need to ensure a verified gross mass is provided on the shipping documents. This will prevent delays and refusals to load containers onto a vessel," the AMSA spokesperson says.

"To provide clarity for shippers, the updated Marine Order 42 will be available from the AMSA website prior to the date it comes into effect.

"For transhipment of containers loaded onto a vessel overseas prior to 1 July 2016 and waiting to be loaded at an Australian port on or after that date, the container would not have been required to have a VGM provided on the shipping documents at the time of loading at the originating port.

"It is usual practice for transhipped containers to retain the same shipping documents throughout all sea voyages.

"All sea legs of the total voyage are detailed with one originating shipper that does not change.

"In that case, AMSA would have no objection to the originating gross mass provided on the shipping documents being used for loading onto a vessel at an Australian port by agreement of the parties involved.

"It must be noted, however, that where a master, carrier, or person loading such a trans-shipment container onto a vessel on or after 1 July 2016 requires a VGM to be provided, these requests would have to be complied with."

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