Major changes regarding verification and reporting of loaded container weight are being implemented – and these changes will affect all shippers, freight forwarders and NVOCC’s.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to require certified weight verification for all containerized cargo prior to loading on board a vessel. On July 1, the World Shipping Council (WSC) released a guideline for implementation of the new requirements regarding weight verification. The WSC consists of 26 members that represent approximately 90 percent of the global liner vessel capacity and they partner with governments and stakeholders and play an active role in the development of programs to improve maritime security and safety. Their complete summary of the requirement can be found below.
The new verification requirements go into effect July 1, 2016 and will require shippers of all containers to provide a certified weight certificate showing gross weight of the container and its contents. Verification must be provided to the ocean carrier (who will provide to the port terminal operator) sufficiently in advance of vessel loading so that the verification can be used n preparing vessel stowage plans. As the requirement now stands, NO containerized cargo will be loaded onto a vessel after July 1, 2016 unless the shipper has provided a signed weight certificate to the ocean. According to the guidelines, this requirement will apply to NVOCC’s and freight forwarders as well as cargo tendered by direct beneficial cargo owners. Even when the underlying shipper has provided weight verification, the forwarder/ NVOCC will be required to separately verify container weight and provide signed documentation to the ocean carrier whenever the forwarder/NVOCC is considered the shipper in relation to the ocean carrier.
Some of the main points of the guidelines are:
- Obtaining and documenting the verified gross weight of a loaded container is the responsibility of the shipper
- The ocean carriers will consider whoever tenders the cargo to them as the shipper
- Verified weights will be used for ship stowage planning
- If verified weights are not received by the ocean carrier in advance, containers cannot be loaded onto any ship that is subject to SOLAS regulations
- Costs incurred due to shipper’s failure to comply will be for the account of the cargo
The SOLAS regulations allow for 2 methods to be used to obtain the gross container weight. The first would be to weigh the entire loaded container, using calibrated and certified equipment. Whether done by the shipper directly or at an outside service the shipper chooses, the scale equipment must meet applicable accuracy and calibration requirements of the State where the scale equipment is located.
A second method involves weighing all of the packages / items loading into the container, including pallets / dunnage / packing material and then adding the tare weight of the container. For cargo such as loose grain, scrap metal, or other bulk cargoes this method is considered inappropriate and impractical.
It is important to note that the “shipper” as named on the ocean bill of lading will be the party responsible for providing verified gross weight to the ocean carrier. The World Shipping Council’s current position is that NVOCC’s or master loaders on co-loaded cargo must themselves verify the container weight. This would mean that NVOCC’s will need to obtain authorization from their customer to separately verify or endorse the shipper’s weight certificate, or the NVOCC would have to independently obtain the necessary weight certificate.
Estimating the weight of any portion of the contents of the container will not be acceptable, and the party packing the container cannot use a weight provided by another party except under certain strict guidelines. Carriers and port operations who suspect that verified weights are erroneous will be able to take necessary action in the interests of safety with the current assumption that any charges incurred would be for the account of the cargo.
Overweight containers (exceeding the maximum permitted gross weight) will not be loaded. Weight verification can be provided as part of the shipping instructions provided to the ocean carrier, or in a separate declaration. The certification must be signed by a person so authorized by the shipper; electronic signatures will be allowed for EDI transmissions.
As the implantation date is a year away, there is a possibility that changes to some of the minor points could occur – but it seems clear that this regulation will go into effect next year. Shippers, NVOCC’s and forwarders should begin considering the implications and how this regulation will affect their shipments.
RCL will be monitoring this issue closely, and will provide updates if and when they become available.