Thursday, April 14, 2016

SOLAS Container Mass Deadline Draws Closer as Freight Forwarders and Shippers Wait

As US Argues Ports Start to Gear Up for Regulation Change - But What is the Cost?
Shipping News Feature
UK – US – WORLDWIDE – As shippers around the globe wake up to the fact that they will be responsible for certifying the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of export containers from 1 July 2016 or face the consequences, so the rush for facts and solutions steps up a gear. The performance of many freight forwarders so far has been lamentable, with numerous organisations adopting a head in the sand attitude, and now the race is on to prepare for whichever method, overall laden container weight (Method 1) or accurate individual consignment weight (Method 2), they will adopt.

Many companies are waiting for the press releases from UK ports, all of whom will presumably have Method 1 weighing systems in place before the relevant date, however although systems are being installed, there is no word yet as how much each weighing is likely to cost if necessary. Doubtless someone will blink soon as shippers are getting restless at the delay.

DP World Southampton has invested in a container weighing system from load, strain and stress measuring specialist Strainstall. The company has over 45 years’ expertise and its latest CWS™ system was developed specifically to address the SOLAS requirements. CWS™ is designed to be integrated into Terminal Operating Systems giving a simple and automated process for producing a VGM for SOLAS compliance. Simon Everett, managing director of Strainstall, commented:

“Our latest generation container weighing system is the culmination of two years of development by our engineering team, and we’re delighted that DP World Southampton has decided to equip all their straddle carriers with it. There is a massive global requirement for our container weighing system. The deadline for compliance is fast approaching and port operators all over the world are anxious to implement solutions before the regulations come into force, with the MCA being the only state competent authority so far confirming the accuracy requirements, the industry is running out of time to get solutions implemented.”

DP World confirmed that its UK ports will offer a full container weighing service having recognised the need to provide a fully compliant service to ensure there is no disruption to UK exports through its box terminals. Nick Loader, chief executive officer, DP World Southampton said;

“We assessed a number of different options to be able to offer a container weighing service to our customers and selected Strainstall’s system because it doesn’t require any changes to our port operating procedures and is quick to install. The trials demonstrated an accuracy above our expectations and the system will be fully integrated into our TOS to ensure we are able to offer a full VGM service by the first of July.”

Today the Freight Transport Association (FTA) held a free, open to all briefing on the subject and recently the British International Freight Association (BIFA) had its own series of lectures to instruct members. Many shippers and agents will need to adopt Method 2 and weigh cargo at their own premises and some software companies have rushed to make things simpler when it comes to providing the correct documentation. Hong Kong headquartered software management group CargoSmart is offering a free compliance service with a recent customer survey eliciting 820 responses.

The CargoSmart survey revealed more than two-thirds of the respondents indicated that the extra process of obtaining the verified weight will present the biggest challenge to comply, while 24% of the respondents indicated submitting the VGM in a timely manner presented the biggest problem. CargoSmart’s platform offers shippers and their designated submission parties multiple channels to submit the VGM to their carriers. Lionel Louie, chief commercial officer of CargoSmart commented:

“CargoSmart is working with over 70 major carriers and terminals to establish a seamless VGM integration before the regulation goes into effect. By offering free VGM solutions with multiple submission channels and a dashboard, we will help shippers minimise changes to their existing shipping execution processes, control costs for complying with the new requirements, and provide clear visibility to submission status.”

CargoSmart maintains a presence in the US and, as illustrated comprehensively in our article last month, doubt remains about the preparedness of the American market to adopt, what are after all only sane and sensible regulations to prevent further deaths and injuries. Today a House of Congress subcommittee hears from stakeholders to try and resolve the conflict. The new regulations are bitterly opposed by the agricultural lobby and the attitude of the US Coastguard is deplored worldwide after the Coast Guard stated it would not hold shippers responsible for non-compliance. Commandant Paul Zukunft told the House last month that the regulation was:

”Run through the IMO [so it’s] not a regulatory process per se, but it really does apply to exporters to verify the weight of a container before it’s loaded onto a ship and then exported to a foreign country. I am not seeing the sky falling.”

It seems the US position, having seen the full process through at the IMO along with the other 161 countries affected by the changes, is now back tracking as the Agriculture Transportation Coalition and its supporters have decided that international law is subservient to a US whim. The report of today’s hearing will make interesting reading.