The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recently announced that it is amending the Safety Life at Sea (SOLAS). For shippers with global logistics as part of their supply chain, they will be required to present a signed cargo weight verification to ocean carriers prior to them being loaded onto the ships starting on July 1st1. The IMO hopes that this new regulation will improve overall safety surrounding the ports and the ocean carriers. This will affect ports on a global scale with 170 countries asked to abide2. There has been a lot of ambiguity surrounding the effect this new regulation will have on ports and the overall distribution of goods. Below is what we know about the amended regulation so far.
Weight Verification Importance
Today, shippers are asked to provide an estimation of the weight of the contents within their containers. This doesn’t account for the weight of the containers, pallets, or any other materials inside packaging leading to discrepancies in what the containers actually weigh. Misreporting on weight has led to numerous accidents where ocean carriers are damaged due to improper stacking of containers and in some cases carriers have even capsized. Many believe that more accurate reporting on weight can help avoid accidents by properly planning container storage on the ships and allow those working at the ports and on the carriers to safely transport goods.
Methods to Weigh
The IMO has recognized two methods that shippers can implement to weigh their containers. Method one requires that the container is weighed after it is packed. The second method requires that all cargo and contents are weighed and then added to the container’s weight, which is usually on the door of each container. Regardless of the method, the weighing equipment must meet national certification and calibration requirements3 when they are determined.
Now that estimations aren’t enough, shippers, ports, and carriers are all trying to develop principles surrounding the new regulation. Once the gross mass of the containers is recorded, the data then has to be signed by the shipper on the bill of lading. This means that the shipper, not the carrier, is responsible for verifying that the weight is correct and recorded on all international export containers that will be loaded onto ocean carriers. If shippers have a global logistics partner, they will help to ensure that each container is in compliance with the most up to date regulations.
Difficulties on Deck
There has been a lot of commotion surrounding the new regulations. Shippers, carriers, and all those involved are requesting more information from the IMO and involved parties. Many of the regulation details have yet to be determined, including where the containers will be weighed, who will enforce the new regulations, what happens when companies don’t abide, and how the information will be transmitted. For instance, last month the United States Coast Guard said they would not be enforcing SOLAS. However, since their statement they are working closely with the World Trade Organization to determine how they will regulate and enforce the amendment.
Ports are struggling the most with the amendments. In most circumstances, ports contract only with container lines, not the shippers, and this additional communication could be difficult. Ports and shippers also worry that congestion issues may become a norm as containers undergo the weight verification process. Some ports have already voiced that they will only allow pre-weighed containers into their terminals while others say they will be equipped with weighing equipment to help the process.
Details surrounding the new amendment to SOLAS are still being evaluated and communicated before the July 1st launch of container weight verification. In the meantime, port, shippers, and carriers should prepare to improve their global supply chain processes to incorporate weight verification methods. This new regulation, although difficult to adopt, will improve the overall safety at ports and on the sea. To keep up to date on the details of SOLAS, visit the IMO, WTO, or contact your global third party logistics provider for more information.