No grace period on new IMO weighing regulations for tank, box ISO containers

June 28, 2016

There will be no grace period for the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) container weighing regulations that take effect July 1, according to International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) officials. The possibility of a grace period was rejected in a recent IMO Circular Letter.

Due to concerns expressed at the 96th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (May 11-20) during plenary debate and a discussion and presentation group outside the main meeting led by ICHCA, IMO issued a circular letter. The content of the Circular Letter, is self-explanatory, however some respondents are of the mistaken belief that this means the SOLAS Amendment itself has been deferred for three months until October 1, 2016.

This is not true, all the circular calls for is a “practical and pragmatic” approach to be taken with reference to transhipment cargoes and procedures for “documenting, communicating, and sharing VGM information.” It is still a requirement to obtain the VGM for the packed container either using Method 1 or Method 2 as of July 1, 2016.

In addition, ICHCA has worked in collaboration with the World Shipping Council (WSC), the TT Club, and the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) to jointly release a second Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document designed to support the smooth implementation of the container weighing regulations that take effect globally on July 1, 2016. The amendments to SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) require packed shipping containers to have a verified gross mass (VGM) before they can be loaded on a ship for export. This applies to all ISO containers, including tank containers.

Like the initial joint industry FAQ document, published last December, these new supplementary FAQs are based on actual questions from affected stakeholders regarding proper implementation of the new regulations. The supplementary FAQs include new questions and answers as well as expanded answers to some of the questions listed in the December FAQs. As such, these FAQs do not introduce new interpretations or approaches, but seek to provide further assistance in explaining the SOLAS VGM requirements by building on existing guidance material.

Some of the supplementary FAQs explain in more detail how the SOLAS container verified gross mass requirements should be fulfilled in various circumstances as described in questions received from supply chain parties. Other supplementary FAQs are intended to give additional information regarding the two methods that may be used under the SOLAS VGM requirements to obtain the verified gross mass of a packed container. 

Stakeholders are urged to continue to approach any of our collaborating organizations with additional questions that may arise after the enforcement date of the regulation on 1 July. Contact details of subject-matter experts from each of the organizations can be found at the end of the FAQs document.

Container safety is a shared responsibility, and all parties have an interest in improving the safety of ships, their crews and others throughout the containerized supply chain while reducing the risk of damages to cargo.