The US Coast Guard has told American shippers that it will not delay implementation of the SOLAS Chapter VI amendment requiring containers to have a verified gross mass before they can be shipped.
The US Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), representing most of the country’s agricultural and forestry products exporters and thus accounting for a huge slice of US shipping exports, argued that confusion over the VGM could lead to business being lost and threatened supply chain turmoil.
It called for a one-year delay in implementation of the new rules, due to take effect on 1st July, to allow time for government and industry to work together to solve the problems. AgTC cited SOLAS Article VIII(b)(vii)(2), which allows for a Competent Authority [in this case the USCG] to give notice to the IMO of an intention to delay implementation of any SOLAS regulation for up to one year at any point before the entry into force.
However, at a special public meeting convened on 18th February at the offices of the Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, DC, Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, the USCG’s Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, said a delay to implementation would not be entertained.
Thomas pointed out that that the VGM is not a US regulation or law, but arises out of international agreement within IMO. As such it will be enforced by flag states, where ships are registered, and any signal that the US was unready or unwilling to comply with the new rule would be interpreted by flag state authorities to mean that loading US export containers on their ships is unsafe. He added that most US exports are carried on foreign flag ships.
This should be the end of the matter. However, the IMO mechanisms allow the US (or any other IMO member-state) to give notice any time up to 30th June. The US could also introduce an “AOB” paper at the next IMO MSC meeting scheduled for May.
At the meeting last week, shippers were reassured that if they used “Method 2” (VGM by calculation), they are legally entitled to rely on the container’s CSC plate as providing an accurate empty tare weight. Source: World Cargo News