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03
Mar 2017

It’s what’s inside that’s counted – Shaun Parsons, Director at PSP Logistics. 

What is SOLAS? 

On the 1st July 2016 the SOLAS regulation was introduced globally requiring shippers to provide a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of their shipping container to the ship or its’ representatives. Containers were being loaded onto vessels without any weight checks and therefore there was a potential to over load ships and have dangerous loads.  The ship owners and the terminals did not want the added responsibility of weighing all the containers prior to loading due to issues around liability, the likelihood of delays and the cost of installing new weighing equipment.  Most ports decided to offer a chargeable weighing service and now over 50% of all export containers are weighed at the terminal. This was welcomed by those shippers who did not register with the MCA and want to take on the responsibility themselves.  In the UK it seems that the implementation of the systems has gone well so far.

Have you encountered any issues? 

I understand that some transhipment ports like Algeciras, are re-weighing the containers. In some cases there is not only a weight discrepancy but the container is actually above its maximum permitted fully laden weight. The information coming through suggests that this is an issue facing some UK and Northern European ports.  I think the problem is after the port has weighed the container and transmitted the data, in some cases there does not seem to a be robust system in place to check the information and act on the non-compliant weights.

Can this new legal requirement really work? 

All parties have a duty of care not to load containers with discrepancies. The shipping lines must put pressure on the terminal operators not to load and shippers/forwarders must have procedures in place to ensure everything is handled correctly. The law is clear that as the shipper you are responsible for providing accurate VGM and they must have suitable processes in place to fulfil their obligation. Shipping Lines also have a responsibility regarding their older container equipment to ensure the TARE weight is correct too. It’s a non-starter if the container weight provided is incorrect. 

It was never going to be an easy regulation to implement but we are 8 months in and we can see that the law is being adhered to with continuous checks around the world and everyone taking responsibility for their own freight it will eventually work.  If they don’t there could be long delays and cost implications as containers are unloaded and reloaded at transhipment /destination ports.