Felixstowe to offer Container Weighing Service

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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Amazon.com China – approved as an NVOCC

Amazon-BoxMarket forces, competition and the desire to be ahead of the competition demonstrate how dynamic the international supply chain is being maneuvered. Amazon’s latest move is not only innovative but demonstrates just how adaptable international trade and Customs Inc. need to be in order to accommodate nuances to traditional accepted norms in global trade. For Customs, it needs to intimately understand the nature of business of its registered or licensed traders so as to properly apply risk and facilitation regimes appropriately. Recent developments in mutual recognition likewise play an important role in awarding real benefits to companies and their supply chains who undertake such global innovations.

According to the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission, Amazon.com Inc’s China arm has registered as an ocean freight forwarder, a move that will give it more control over shipping products from Chinese factories to U.S. shoppers.

The registration is the latest indication that Amazon plans to expand its logistics reach to cut costs for its retail business and potentially provide third-party logistics services to other industries.

It’s new status as a freight forwarder, or “non-vessel operating common carrier,” gives Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, a foothold in the $350 billion a year ocean freight business. It will not operate ships but subcontract that work.

Amazon is already negotiating a deal to lease 20 jets to start an air-delivery service in the United States, the Seattle Times reported last year. The retailer bought truck trailers to add shipping capacity and started a program last year that uses a fleet of on-demand drivers to deliver packages.

“It has more and more control over the supply chain of their business and it gives them the ability to squeeze (costs) even further,” said Satish Jindel, a logistics consultant and president of SJ Consulting Group.

He added the move gives Amazon an even bigger edge against traditional U.S. retailers in negotiating lower prices for goods.

The Federal Maritime Commission, a U.S. government agency that regulates the U.S.-international ocean transportation system, said on Thursday a business named Beijing Century Joyo Courier Service Co Ltd, with the trade names Amazon China, Amazon.CN and Amazon Global Logistics China, was registered in its database to provide ocean freight services.

Amazon China submitted its registration request on Nov. 9, the commission said Thursday, and it was reviewed and registered on Nov. 13. It is the entity’s first registration.

“Amazon’s ocean freight services will be far more attractive to Chinese sellers than to American buyers. Chinese suppliers would love direct access to Amazon’s vast American customer base,” wrote Ryan Petersen, chief executive officer of Flexport, a San Francisco-based freight forwarder who first wrote about Amazon’s registration on his company blog on Thursday.

Petersen added that Amazon’s third-party merchants were unlikely to use its shipping service because it would expose key data like wholesale pricing and supplier names to a rival. Source: Reuters

WSC raises concern over New EU shipper rules – ‘could reveal confidential data’

Buyer-sellerCurrent plans to identify ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ before vessel loading could lead to disclosure of sensitive business information, claim carrier, forwarder and cargo-owner representatives, according to the World Shipping Council (WSC).

Latest European Commission amendments to the EU advance cargo data reporting requirements scheduled for adoption later this year need further clarification. The WSC along with shipper and forwarder representatives is opposing the Commission’s proposals in their current form.

The Commission is now in the final stages of completing its proposals for advance cargo data reporting requirements as part of the implementation of the new Union Customs Code which is scheduled to be adopted in May and could then take effect as early as May 1, 2016. But the WSC claims that the Commission’s efforts to find a short-cut way of obtaining the identity of the ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ of the imported goods before vessel loading could lead to the disclosure of sensitive business information.

Instead of getting it from the importer, like the US does, the Commission has proposed regulation that would require this information be provided to the carrier or NVOCC, or in the alternative, to the ‘consignee’, to be filed in an ENS (entry summary declaration) as a condition of vessel loading.

Based on their understanding and experience with shippers, the WSC has advised the Commission that ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ data may be business-confidential information, and that it is not appropriate to require its disclosure to ocean carriers/NVOCCs or to these parties’ consignees, who may not be parties to the goods’ sales contract.

The WSC also noted that carriers’ current documentation systems had no data fields to capture this information. The Council has been joined by the European Shippers’ Council, the European freight forwarders’ association (CLECAT) and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) in opposing the Commission’s proposals.

If the regulation is implemented as proposed, exporters to the EU should recognize that they will be required to provide the identity of the buyers of their goods to their carrier or NVOCC or to their consignees prior to vessel loading, so that this information could be provided by the carrier or NVOCC in its required advance ENS filing. Source: LloydsLoading

For more detailed information in this regard refer to the World Shipping Council’s website – Advance Cargo Shipment Data