Tuesday, May 10, 2016

SOLAS Regulations Continue to Dominate Export Freight Discussions Worldwide

Regulations for Verified Gross Mass of Containers Gradually Falling Into Place
Shipping News Feature
BELGIUM – WORLDWIDE – All around the world and just 6 weeks ahead its mandatory inception, all talk amongst shippers is about the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) amended SOLAS regulations requiring verification of a freight container’s gross mass. Now the global cargo handling NGO, the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) International is to hold a practical seminar ‘One Month to Go – Are You Ready?’ in Antwerp on June 1, hosted by port training institute OCHA, to discuss industry preparations around the three main themes of compliance, communication and contingency planning.

With much confusion still surrounding how Verified Gross Mass (VGM) will be regulated, the first session of the day will be dedicated to compliance. Among the panellists will be Matthew Gore Partner at global law firm Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW), an ICHCA member, who said:

“It is expected that many Competent Authorities will be publishing their requirements shortly for implementation and enforcement in their jurisdictions, leaving very little time for the industry to act on these and be ready for 1 July. It is clear that different approaches and timetables are being followed in different jurisdictions. This has been clearly reflected when we canvassed some of our other offices which have also been actively working in this area with clients such as terminals, carriers, forwarders, shippers and others in the container supply chain to ensure readiness for 1 July.”

During the seminar, legal experts will explore the different approaches to implementation being taken by national authorities across Europe and elsewhere, and discuss the compliance implications for various supply chain members and sectors, including European short sea shipping operations.

Another thorny issue on the table will be the approval and regulation of the equipment actually used for container weighing around the world, which appears to fall under national trade regimes related to weights and measures that are completely separate to the regulation of SOLAS itself. Ian Dunmill, Assistant Director for the International Organisation for Legal Metrology (OIML), who will also speak at the Antwerp seminar, said:

“While the physical problem of a lack of suitable weighing equipment will no doubt be an issue at the beginning, my main concern is the lack of a harmonised approach to the regulation of [container] weighing instruments. In the interests of international harmonisation and avoidance of barriers to trade, there should be a common basis for legislation regulating container weighing instruments and that basis should be accepted internationally.”

OIML, an observer to WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee, produces International Recommendations which are intended as model technical legislation for regulated weighing and measuring instruments, with the aim of creating a worldwide level playing field.

ICHCA is certain that the topic will stimulate lively debate at the seminar, as many providers and adopters of container weighing technology have already highlighted the huge complexity of securing the necessary approvals across multiple countries.

Large and often complex supply chains operating under new VGM legislation will require communication between all parties. In the second session of the day, acquiring VGM data and getting it communicated in a timely manner along the supply chain will be the focus of discussion. Representatives from a wide array of VGM technology providers, including:-

Avery Weigh-Tronix, Bromma Conquip, Conductix-Wampfler, Hirschmann, Intercomp and Strainstall

Will come together to discuss the various weighing options now available, look at the different approaches now being adopted, and explore the issues of ensuring timely data flow and submission.

On the third panel of the day discussion will turn to contingency planning. The panel will discuss how to put contingency plans in place to counter the inevitable problems that will arise in the early days after 1 July. The panel will also consider longer term strategies for what to do when things go wrong with the VGM process, especially for more sensitive cargo such as perishables and dangerous goods.

The day will finish with a look at the related issues of safe container packing and securing, and discussion of industry training needs with James Douglas, Director of online training specialist Exis Technologies. This month, Exis will launch a new VGM training module to complement its existing CTU Packing e-learning course, developed with the TT Club. Capt. Richard Brough OBE, ICHCA’s Technical Advisor and Delegate to IMO, who will moderate and speak at the seminar, commented:

“With 1 month to go, it is vital that we get round the table and discuss how we can meet SOLAS VGM requirements with minimum disruption. Antwerp is a major European container logistics hub, and a perfect location to host an open discussion with input across the supply chain. This will help us develop compliance, communication and contingency methods that work for everyone, everywhere.”

The ICHCA Container Weighing Seminar will be held on Wednesday 1 June 2016 at the OCHA Training Centre in Antwerp, Belgium. To book you place online click HERE, and for more information contact Helen Coffey, at helen.coffey@ichca.com or call +44 (0) 203 327 7560.

Meanwhile the situation in the UK is gradually becoming clearer and, having spoken to representatives of all the ports exhibiting at the Multimodal exhibition today we shall publish shortly a review of how individual British ports plan to cope with the regulations and whether they will provide a service to shippers and if so how much it will cost, some of course having already done so. One thing which has become clear however is that the scheme will be monitored and audited in UK ports by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.