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Coast Guard Signals Flexibility in Complying with Container Weight Verification Requirement

Tuesday, May 03, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Coast Guard has determined that existing U.S. laws and regulations for providing verified container weights are equivalent to the requirements in Regulation VI/2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The Coast Guard said this equivalency provides flexibility for entities in the export chain to reach arrangements to ensure compliance with the SOLAS container weight verification amendments that come into effect July 1.

The SOLAS amendments will require shippers of packed cargo containers to certify and submit the verified gross mass (the combined weight of the cargo and container) to the carrier and port terminal operator sufficiently in advance of vessel loading to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan. Some have interpreted this rule to mean that shippers are required to provide the weight of both the cargo and the container, which business groups have warned could lead to higher costs, further port congestion and slower delivery times.

According to Marine Safety Information Bulletin 009/16, the Coast Guard’s current regulatory regime provides for other entities within the container export chain to work in combination with shippers to determine and verify container weights and provides ships’ masters with container weights to ensure ships are loaded and operated safely. The bulletin states that shippers, carriers, terminals and maritime associations have outlined multiple acceptable methods for providing VGM, such as (1) the terminal weighing the container and, when duly authorized, verifying the VGM on behalf of the shipper and (2) the shipper and carrier reaching agreement whereby the shipper verifies the weight of the cargo, dunnage and other securing material and the container’s tare weight is provided and verified by the carrier. The bulletin adds that for purposes of determining VGM any equipment currently being used to comply with federal or state laws, including the Intermodal Safe Container Transportation Act and the container weight requirements in 29 CFR 1918.85(b), are acceptable for the purpose of complying with SOLAS.

The Coast Guard states that in the normal course of vessel inspections under its flag state and port state control authorities it will continue to verify that ships’ masters receive the VGM of containers to ensure that ships are loaded safely and operate within their structural and stability safety limitations.

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