New Container Weight Regulations

From July 1, 2016 shippers need to obey new container weight verification rules. In November 2014, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted mandatory amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) for packed containers received for transportation at sea (gate-in or off-rail). These new rules place a requirement on the shipper of a packed container to verify and provide the container’s gross weight to the ocean carrier and port terminal representative prior to it being loaded onto a ship.

These new SOLAS regulations will apply to all packed containers to which IMO’s Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) applies and which are to be loaded onto a ship in international maritime traffic.

The main principles of the new rules are:
1.    The responsibility for obtaining and documenting the verified gross weight of a packed container lies with the shipper.
2.    Verified container weights are to be used by the terminal operator and the vessel operator in ship stowage and planning.

There are two methods for obtaining the verified gross mass of a packed container:
No. 1 (IMO Guidelines, § 5.1.1.): Upon the conclusion of packing and sealing a container and by using calibrated and certified equipment, the shipper or his representative weighs the packed container.
This is the standard method and is appropriate to use for any packed container and any kind of goods.

No. 2 (IMO Guidelines, § 5.1.2.): The shipper or his representative weighs all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and adds the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses of the container’s contents. In this method, estimating the weight of the container’s contents is not permitted.

Regardless of whether method is used to obtain the verified weight of the container, the SOLAS amendments and the IMO Guidelines are clear that the shipper named on the carrier’s bill of lading is the party responsible for providing the packed container’s verified gross mass, and that the carrier and terminal operator may rely on a shipper’s signed container weight verification to be accurate.

With these new rules, all regulated parties need to be prepared to implement and obey the container weight verification requirements latest by 1 July, 2016. This period until then should allow to prepare for the required process and documentation changes, as well as to test information transmissions in advance to the effective date. Shippers should now start discussions with their carriers and freight forwarders to set in place logistics and communications to ensure compliance with the new rules and to avoid non-shipment and delays in the supply chain.

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