Container weight rules ‘not well understood’

CTAA raises industry concerns regarding new SOLAS export container weight regulations

Container weight rules ‘not well understood’
CTAA is taking steps to help stakeholders understand the new rules.


The Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) highlights weight measurement accuracy issues as the international implementation date of the new Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) export container verified gross mass (VGM) regulations inches closer.

CTAA director Neil Chambers  says the industry is concerned that the new regulations, applicable from July 1, are still not well understood in Australia.

"In many respects, Australia is well placed to meet the new SOLAS VGM rules – it’s been law in Australia to declare a gross mass for export containers since the early 1990s, and we have a mature electronic communications platform to declare the weight through the 1-Stop Pre-Receival Advice (PRA) message," Chambers says.

"So, in that regard, it’s unlikely that Australia will suffer from significant supply chain disruptions from 1 July 2016.

"However, the biggest challenge once the new Australian regulations come into force are the weight measurement accuracy standards that will be imposed to provide weight verification. 

"We perceive that these Australian standards aren’t understood well at all by many stakeholders in the export container supply chain, particularly some exporters, freight forwarders and container transport logistics providers.

"To meet the new standards, shippers and there service providers will not be able to ‘guesstimate’ the gross mass as they may have done in the past, whether they weigh the container once loaded (known as Method 1 in the SOLAS rules), or weigh all of the cargo and load-restraint material being loaded and then add the container tare weight (Method 2). 

"And, they will need to use weighing equipment that meets the National Measurement Institute (NMI) standards that will be imposed."

Chambers says unless the current exports are "linked to the need for accurate measurements for trade purposes via a weighbridge or other trade standard weighing device, many export chain parties will be unfamiliar with how to meet the weighing accuracy standards. 

"And, it’s more than likely that the load cell equipment on their existing weighing devices or handling equipment will not comply."

The CTAA highlights the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)’s delay in publishing the Australian regulations that has added to the lack of understanding in the matter.

"Many peak industry organisations such as Ports Australia have urged AMSA to release the amended version of Marine Orders Part 42 (Cargo Stowage & Securing) as soon as possible, and to develop a guide to explain the very technical weight measurement standards in simple terms, how to determine whether a weighing instrument meets the standards, and who to talk with to find out.

Chambers raises concern that while AMSA has agreed to issue further guidance material, it could be "too late to assist industry stakeholders to comply".

It was earlier reported that AMSA will heed to a conciliatory call from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to implement an enforcement transition period of three months.

"AMSA needs to take an educative approach as most stakeholders will want to comply, but may not physically be able to alter their supply chain practices in less than one month. 

"However, if instances come to light where shippers are blatantly ignoring the VGM rules, then AMSA should take strong enforcement action. 

"Otherwise, some will just take a ‘business as usual’ approach because they perceive that there will be no adequate enforcement of the regulations."

The CTAA is taking steps to help stakeholders understand the new regulations including, in-house training sessions, and working with equipment handling experts and technology providers for specialised knowledge.

"Exporters, forwarders, container logistics providers and others are invited to contact CTAA to see how we can assist them to meet these new Verified Gross Mass (VGM) regulations."

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