March/April 2016 Shipper BULKDISTRIBUTOR Box weighing still worries logistics industry A large amount of confusion and uncertainty still surrounds the impending implementation of the IMO’s SOLAS Convention on container weight regulation. Beginning on 1 July 2016, an amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will require the verified gross mass (VGM) of packed containers to be documented before carriers or terminal operators can load them. Carriers and terminals will be required to receive the VGM in time to use it to make the stowage plan for loading the ship. But big question marks remain over the level of preparedness in the global logistics industry, and indeed whether comments by various government bodies have made the issue clearer or further muddied the waters. Public statements and FAQs released by the US Coast Guard in February have been interpreted by some carrier and shipper stakeholders as questioning whether the requirement is mandatory, whether it applies to shippers or will be enforced at US ports, and what the Coast Guard will do to implement the rule. Writing in the Maritime Executive, a US publication, J Michael Cavanaugh and Eric Lee, two lawyers at Holland & Knight, pointed out that: 1) the SOLAS verified gross mass certificate (VGM) is mandatory for IMO flag-state vessels operating in international trade; 2) the VGM requirement will be implemented by 1 July for such vessels loading at US ports; and 3) IMO ‘Guidelines’ for implementation are not mandatory, so carriers and shippers have some flexibility to work out acceptable procedures. Although the Coast Guard now questions whether the SOLAS regulation applies to shippers or terminals in the United States, and sees little or no enforcement role for itself in the process, there is no dispute that it applies to the IMO flag-state vessels engaged in international trade, and thus the vessel operators may, and presumably all will, implement the shipper-signed weight document requirement as of 1 July. Specifically Regulation 2, which is mandatory for IMO flag-state vessels (the US, most major shipping nations and international registries, eg, Panama, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Bahamas), requires that shippers must verify by a reliable method the weight of each container tendered, that shippers must timely provide to the vessel’s master and the terminal a ‘shipping document’ signed by the shipper’s representative verifying such weight, and that no container may be loaded to an IMO flag-state vessel for international carriage unless the shipp W"