Flexibility call on container weighing rule approach

IMO wants enforcement of SOLAS verified gross mass rules to account for containers packed before deadline

Flexibility call on container weighing rule approach
Deadline looms on new container weighing rules.


As the new global weighing rules deadline for shipping containers going to ports looms, the global agency responsible has urged a "practical and pragmatic approach" regarding those packed before July 1.

The call – in a circular to administrations, port state control authorities, companies, port terminals and ship masters – follows discussions in the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) verified gross mass (VGM) regulations have been a source of anxiety from transporters and shippers locally and  internationally as authorities have struggled to iron out what weighing systems are compliant and where responsibility for dealing with and handling non-compliant containers lies.

While the new rules will go ahead as planned, the MSC noted concern about the impact on containers packed before deadline and then transhipped.

It says it accepted that "some leeway should be provided in order for any problems resulting from software updates, required for the electronic collection and transmittal of verified gross mass data, to be rectified without causing delays to containers being loaded.

"In this context, the MSC agreed that while there should be no delay in the implementation of the SOLAS requirements, it would be beneficial if Administrations and port State control authorities could take a ‘practical and pragmatic approach’ when enforcing them, for a period of three months immediately following 1 July 2016.

"This would help ensure that containers that are loaded before 1 July 2016, but transhipped on or after 1 July 2016, reach their final port of discharge without a verified gross mass and it would provide flexibility, for three months immediately after 1 July 2016, to all the stakeholders in containerized transport to refine, if necessary, procedures (e.g. updated software) for documenting, communicating and sharing electronic verified gross mass data."

Notwithstanding that, the MSC emphasised that the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers, is not limited to the provision and use of VGM information and is also covered by a number of SOLAS regulations.

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