Archives For container weighing

VGMWith under one month to go until the SOLAS verified gross mass (VGM) regulation enters in force, less than 15% of International Maritime Organization (IMO) Member States have issued guidelines on how they plan to enforce the amendment, according to the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA).

The amendment, which will enter into force on July 1, 2016, will require shippers to obtain and declare the VGM for each packed container before it can be loaded onto a ship.

Captain Richard Brough, technical advisor to ICHCA International, said: “As July 1 approaches we see an increasing number of terminal operators announcing the service options they will offer to shippers to facilitate determining the VGM of export containers.”

Despite the efforts of lifting equipment suppliers, carriers and forwarders to engage positively and identify the most appropriate way to comply, Mr Brough said that sadly, where compliance is a shared responsibility, communication between all the different parties has too often been “acrimonious rather than collaborative”.

As a result, contingency planning is now crucial for all stakeholders to avoid a potentially disastrous impact on the container supply chain, he added.

It was suggested at a recent ICHCA seminar that the key to successful implementation of the VGM requirements is close communication and co-operation between governments and all industry stakeholders.

Mike Yarwood, claims expert at TT Club, said: “Behavioural change through all aspects of the supply chain is required. Weight is a relatively small element of broader initiatives to engender safety and improve operational performance.” Source: Port Strategy

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SAMSA logoThe following amended marine notice – click here, issued by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), provides guidance for the implementation of SOLAS Chapter VI Regulation 2 regarding the Verification of the Gross Mass of packed containers. It outlines the Republic of South Africa’s guidelines for the implementation of the mandatory amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter VI, Part A, Regulation 2. The SOLAS requirements regarding the Verification of the Gross Mass of packed containers carrying cargo (SOLAS regulation VI/2) will enter into force in July 2016. Amendments to this marine notice include:

  • The implementation of an enforcement tolerance.
  • Containers that are loaded on a ship before 1 July 2016 and are transhipped on or after 1 July 2016.

Source: SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

Transnet Freight RailAs from 1 July 2016, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), as a transporter, must obtain proof of sea export container weights for rail to a Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) port facility. TPT has already engaged with all its shipping line customers and all respective bodies. Customers working on average mass will not be allowed to do so as from 1 July 2016 and must provide verified proof of the mass loaded into a container.

After reviewing the requirements of SOLAS, TFR has come to the conclusion that it is able to offer the service to provide the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for Method 1 to customers who make use of Transnet rail services for export containers railed from TFR terminals equipped with weighbridges – click here to read TFR’s requirements for VGM.

The following links provide examples of the documentation and declaration which must be made available to TFR either as part of the documentation or as a separate attachment –

Source: Transnet Freight Rail

MCA LogoThe UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency has dropped the tolerances it was considering for weighing equipment used to weigh a container for the new SOLAS VGM requirement.

One of the issues that has been holding some terminals back from investing in equipment to weigh containers is the lack of any clarity over the accuracy standards that equipment must meet. SOLAS says only that equipment must “meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the State in which the equipment is being used”.

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had been consulting on a proposal for two weighing tolerances for equipment used to generate a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) using method 1 (weighing the container):

  • +/- 400kg up to 20T then +/- 2%
  • +/- 300kg up to 15T then +/- 2%

Sources involved in the process say some port operators and weighing equipment suppliers had expressed concerns these tolerances were unreasonable. MCA has this week issued new guidance on the VGM requirement, including a procedure for applying for approval to use Method 2 (weighing cargo items and calculating the total weight of a container).

The MCA has dropped any requirement for a specific accuracy level, opting instead to set an enforcement level. It stated: “The verified gross mass should be as accurate as reasonably practical taking into account methodology and operational variances. The MCA has set an enforcement tolerance of ±5% or ±500kg, whichever is the greater value to avoid disruption within the supply chain, however this value is for enforcer’s guidance only and it is the shipper’s responsibility to be as accurate as possible”.

Method 1 equipment includes “weighbridges, or lifting equipment fitted with load cells, or other approved weighing equipment to determine a loaded container’s Verified Gross Mass (VGM)”. Unlike other jurisdictions the MCA has not stated that it requires two 20ft containers on a trailer to be weighed separately, or said anything about how the weight of the truck and trailer is to be obtained. It stated only that “Calculations may be used as part of the method 1 process”, so these items do not in fact need to be weighed as part of the VGM process.

With regard to certification and enforcement, the MCA states: “ Method 1 users are required, on request by the MCA or other body, to provide both of the following:

  • Evidence that the weighing equipment has been supplied/maintained for the purpose of determining the VGM of a loaded container and is capable of producing a ticket (electronic record). Each ticket must include the container number, the VGM of the container, and the procedures for, and records of, any calculations which have been made. If this information is produced as an electronic record, it is essential that it is able to be produced without delay as a paper document.
  • Records kept of maintenance and verification (calibration) procedures, including any corrective / remedial actions taken.

The full guidance and other documentation can be found at this link. Source: WorldCargoNews

World Cargo News reports  – While the Coast Guard maintains the US will be compliant with the SOLAS amendment on container weighing, US Shippers are interpreting guidance from US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Thomas as confirmation they can continue with existing practice to declare the weight of their goods rather than weigh containers.

Following to the fallout over his comments at the Trans Pacific Maritime conference in Long Beach this month, Rear Admiral’s Thomas issued further guidance on the SOLAS amendment that requires containers to have a Verified Gross Mass before they are loaded on a vessel from 1 July.

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has since confirmed that SOLAS is binding on US shippers, but stated that how shippers work with carriers to obtain and report a VGM is a commercial matter for those parties to determine.

Some US shippers, including the US Agriculture Transport Coalition (ATC), have made it known it is not practical for them to supply, and be responsible for anything other than the weight of the cargo, as they do today. The Coast Guard appears to be facilitating this approach, and the ATC last month told its members it “received confirmation” from USCG that shippers can continue to verify the weight of the goods they own, while lines remain responsible for the weight of the container.

On March 14 some 49 groups and associations representing US primary producers, manufacturers, importers and shipper groups wrote to Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft saying they support its “interpretation” of the SOLAS amendment, as presented by Rear Admiral Tomas in his blog.

“Specifically, we support the Admiral’s view that if the shipper provides the cargo mass weight, to which the carrier adds the weight of the container, then the intent of SOLAS is achieved. In fact, several ocean carrier executives have advised that such a process would be practical.”

Some carriers, however, have rightly pointed out that this does not meet the SOLAS requirement, as the letter then notes: “The reason for our concern, and appreciation of Admiral Thomas’ guidance, is that some ocean carriers, citing this SOLAS amendment, are demanding that the shipper certify both the cargo and the carrier’s container. This is contrary to the practical realities of our US export maritime commerce and fundamentally flawed conceptually. (It would be similar to demanding that a soybean shipper certify to the railroad the weight of the railcar itself.)”

The groups maintain that they “fully understand our responsibility to accurately disclose the weights of cargo tendered to the ocean carriers. In fact, advance submission of accurate gross cargo weight is a well-established practice mandated by US Customs and Border Protection, by numerous intermodal (trucking and rail) weight requirements, and presently found in Shipper’s Instructions to carriers to meet so-called “no doc, no load” cargo cutoffs for entry into marine terminals. In addition, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Rule, in place since 1983, assures that the accurate weight of combined cargo and container be known to the carrier prior to loading.”

Despite SOLAS, the shipper groups do not see a need to weigh individual containers and suggest other solutions can be found: “for instance, shippers are willing to provide to their carriers an annual written confirmation in the service contract (or other mutually-agreed document) that our cargo weights are accurate”.

One of the major concerns is liability, in particular the requirement that someone now sign a VGM document. Shippers say carrier demands for this are being rejected. Many US Corporations will not allow their employee to certify the weight of and assume liability for equipment that the corporation does not own, manage, control and in fact may not even see.”

The Coast Guard, for its part, does not appear to be pushing the issue of current practice not meeting the new SOLAS requirements.

In his testimony at the US House Committee on Transport and Infrastructure’s hearing for the Coast Guard’s 2017 Budget request Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, USG made the following statement: “Foreign carriers are pretty much all in compliance today. When I was at the container terminal in Long Beach a month and half ago all the containers that come on to that yard are already weighed before they go in. So I am not seeing a sky is falling panacea playing out around us, but we need to make sure that there aren’t unintended consequences. That is why we are continuing to reach out with the many exporters…that container shows up on a manifest before it is loaded on a ship. What is needed is that final weight, but by and large most of these manifests already have that weight filled in in that column.”

The US, it appears, intends to continue to follow current practice where the shipper provides a declared weight of the cargo, leaving it to the carrier to determine the final weight of the container. Source: World Cargo News

Verified Gross MassThe 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

Container_crane_and_spreader

Picture: Wikipedia

The Port of Felixstowe has confirmed that it will offer a container weighing service to ensure UK shippers are able to comply with the new SOLAS regulations that come into effect on 1 July 2016

The new SOLAS Chapter VI regulation requiring the shipper (or other named party in the Bill of Lading – normally a freight forwarder/NVOCC) – to supply the shipping line with a verified gross mass (VGM) declaration before the container can be loaded aboard the ship comes into force on 1st July. As widely reported, there is widespread concern that shippers will not be ready.

Commenting on the new service that Felixstowe will provide, Stephen Abraham, the port’s COO, said: “We have met with many customers and from their feedback it is clear that there is still a lot of uncertainty amongst exporters about the new rules.

“The rules have the potential to cause significant disruption to export supply chains. To help avoid this, we have decided to provide a service where export containers can be weighed at the port before being loaded. We will provide further details about how the weighing service will work in good time to ensure all exporters can be compliant by the time the new rules come into force.”

The service at the port will be available to containers arriving either by road or rail. This is important as, through its railheads, Felixstowe is the UK’s largest intermodal rail terminal; 40% of all laden export containers arrive at the port by rail.

To provide the weighing service, Felixstowe will use a spreader twistlock-based system, although the supplier of the system and the number of RTG and intermodal RMG spreaders that will be equipped with it has not been confirmed.

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is the responsible authority for the VGM as regards UK containerised export shipments, requires all weighing equipment used to provide a VGM, whether by Method 1 or Method 2, to be calibrated to within +/- 0.1% of the true mass of the loaded container (Method 1) or by calcuation based on the sum weights of the individual cargo items being packed and associated dunnage, lashing chains, etc (Method 2).

When, at the end of 2010, the International Chamber of Shipping first launched its campaign for all containers to be weighed before ocean carriage, it was assumed that the weighing would take place in ports – naturally, as ports are where most container lifting equipment is based.

However, port operators – including, and not least, Felixstowe – successfully resisted this, which ultimately resulted in IMO formulating Method 2. While the road to IMO arriving at Method 1 and Method 2 is “history,” the key point is that port operators, freed of a legal obligation to weigh loaded export containers, are thereby free to offer a Method 1 weighing service on a commercial basis.

Irrespective of the technology employed, there are several issues around port weighing. What happens if, for example, when the port [any port, not just Felixstowe] weighs the export container for the purpose of providing the VGM and finds that the weight made the container illegal for road carriage to the port? Does the port have a legal obligation to inform the road traffic authorities [the police in the UK]; or is the onus on the shipping line, whose customer the “offending” shipper/NVOCC is?

That information is also “historic,” in the sense that in order to weigh the overloaded container in the port, it must be assumed that the truck arrived safely at the port, and that particular (unique) illegal truck trip to the export port has gone forever. The remaining problem, however, is that the VGM provided by the port may indicate that the weight of the container makes it illegal for on-carriage by road or rail in the port of unloading.

Asked to comment on this by WorldCargo News, Paul Davey, Head of Corporate Affairs, Hutchison Ports (UK), made a crucial point. “As regards legality for road carriage in all possible overseas destinations, we [at Felixstowe] would not know, for example, whether the container will leave the port of destination or is unstuffed in the port. If it leaves the port [without being unstuffed] we won’t know whether the on-carriage would be by road, rail or any other mode, so there is nothing we could do.”

This is key as it throws the real responsibility for enforcing the VGM on the carriers, who demanded compulsory weighing in the first place. They will be under a legal obligation not to accept a loaded container unless it has VGM documentation.

It follows logically that carriers know the VGM mass of all loaded containers they ship. If, on the way to destination from the port of import, due to gross overloading of the container, the truck jackknifes or overturns, with all the safety risks that entails, the carrier could be liable and open to criminal prosecution.

Thus, there can be no question of “shipper appeasement,” but it could end up in a lawyer’s free-for-all involving anyone providing the VGM if it transpires that the VGM data were incorrect. Suppose, for example, the carrier relied on VGM data provided on a commercial basis by the port of export and it transpired, following a road accident investigation in the country of import that the real weight exceeded the VGM and likely caused the accident.

As to the commercial possibilities for ports providing a VGM service, Felixstowe has not given any information on the price it will charge, but (by way of example) Yarimca in Turkey is advertising US$12 to weigh a container, according to its tariff notice.

Policy responses by port operators will vary enormously according to local context and assessment of risk and benefit. In New York/New Jersey – where loaded containers are mosly imports – Maher Terminals has advised customers that loaded export containers will not be accepted after the July 1st deadline whitout a VGM in advance, as part of the booking process.

PSA Antwerp, which is also offering a VGM service, has stated that it may, at its discretion, “strip and restuff a container so that it complies with the SOLAS requirements. The customer will pay an appropriate compensation to PSA for any such stripping/restuffing of a container and/or determining its VGM.”

The new SOLAS Ch VI imposes no obligation on terminals to weigh containers they unload. All the same, as regards imports, PSA Antwerp says: “If PSA loads a container onto a truck, it can never be held liable for additional expenses and/or fines associated with the (excess) weight of the container/truck combination.

“Any such additional expenses and/or fines will never be borne by PSA and the customer will pay an appropriate compensation to PSA for any such additional expenses and/or fines incurred by it and/or for determining the weight of the container/truck combination.” Source: WorldCargoNews

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