In November 2014, The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) approved an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) that requires packed containers’ gross mass be measured and verified prior to stowage aboard the ship. Although this requirement does not legally take effect until July 1, 2016 it is important to be prepared.
Understanding the fundamentals of the new rule.
The fundamental purpose of the rule is to improve the safety of the ship, the safety of workers both aboard ships and ashore, the safety of cargo and the overall safety at sea.
Two methods of weighing (as provided by the IMO):
- Shippers can use “calibrated and certified equipment” such as a scale, weighbridge, lifting equipment or any other device that is capable of accurately determining the actual gross mass upon the conclusion of packing and sealing of the container.
- Or, as an alternative, the shipper can weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and then add the “tare,” or the weight of the container, to the sum of the single masses.
- Certain types of cargo items (e.g. scrap metal, un-bagged grain and other cargo in bulk) do not easily lend themselves to individual weighing of the items to be packed in the container. In such cases, usage of Method #2 would be inappropriate and impractical, and Method #1 should be used instead.
The shipper is also in charge of the verification and communication of this gross mass to the carrier in the shipping documents sufficiently in advance to being used by terminals and ocean carriers in the preparation of the ship stowage plan. Additional information available here.
Consequences of not complying on the shipper side include the container not being shipped and on the carrier side, the carriers could be served with fines and sanctions from the National Maritime Administration.
Many in the industry are concerned that the July deadline is fast approaching and the lack of preparation could lead to further delays or congestion at our ports. That’s why it is important to start speaking with your logistics partners now. Currently there is not a set industry-wide procedure to implement the container weight verification requirements, but trade groups are now forming committees and discussing the best way to handle the issue.