SOLAS and TPM Conference 2016 – Could the new rule be optional?

Editor Newsletter

A few weeks ago, the TPM Conference was held in Long Beach where shippers and carriers evaluated the ocean market. The latest edition of SOLAS has included a new rule that left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. A new certification would be required for Verification of Gross Mass for cargo. But when the members of TPM were informed that the rule may not be mandatory, many shippers were shocked as they had already spent months planning for the rule implementation July 1st. Where did the miscommunication happen, and what may be coming in the future for ocean shippers?


In January, the World Shipping Council (WSC) evaluated the new rule and summarized the new rule with the following verbiage:
"Before a packed container can be loaded onto a ship, its weight must be determined through weighing.1  It is a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container aboard a vessel to which SOLAS applies without a proper weight verification. There is no exception to this requirement."
However, officials at the TPM conference confirmed that the rule would not be mandatory. Currently, the US Coast Guard and the WSC are in talks to understand how the misinterpretation of the rule could be so skewed. Curiously enough, the WSC did make a footnote about an exception which could be the root cause of the misunderstanding. The exception is below:


"The one exception is as follows: 'Individual, original sealed packages that have the accurate mass of the packages and cargo items (including any other material such as packing material and refrigerants inside the packages) clearly and permanently marked on their surfaces, do not need to be weighed again when they are packed into the container.'"


CPC believes that this was where the miscommunication occurred. In short, when a product is in its original packaging and clearly labeled with its mass at the time of its sealing, the mass of the object does not need to be weighed again. Alternatively, it means that any and all freight inside of that container should be exempt from being weighed again if it is in its original sealed packaging at the time it was weighed at the warehouse. Even so, the WSC claimed that this rule was mandatory and there were no exceptions.
 It could very well be that the WSC took this as at face value and made the assumption that weight and volumetric values would not be labeled clearly on the packaging. For some shippers, this would mean new labeling structures would need to be implemented. But for many shippers, this is already the norm, and so additional weighing would not be required. It will be interesting to see how this turn of events settles out, as the WSC has a lot of explaining to do. CPC advises all shippers to sit back and hold tight until a formal statement is released from either the US Coast Guard or the World Shipping Council.
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