After many years of advocating for a change to the Safety of Life at Sea treaty (SOLAS), the World Shipping Council’s efforts have paid off. On July 1, 2016, containerized cargo loaded onto a vessel must have a verified weight.
History of SOLAS
- 1914: First version of Safety of Life at Sea, an international treaty implemented by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, is adopted in response to the Titanic disaster. It required ships to carry enough lifeboats for all those on board.
- 1929: Second version adopted.
- 1948: Third version adopted.
- 1960: Fourth version adopted with major changes including the modernization of regulations and technology in the shipping industry.
- 1974: A completely new Convention was adopted, which included the amendments previously agreed upon, and changed procedures to allow SOLAS to be amended and implemented within a reasonable time scale.
- November 2014: IMO adopted the most recent changes to SOLAS, which include the verification of containerized cargo weight.
Verification of Containerized Cargo Weight
According to a TruckingInfo.com article, until recently, containerized cargo could be loaded onto a vessel for its international voyage without any party knowing the container’s exact weight. Previous lack of measurement resulted in two problems: (1) heavier containers crushing lighter containers and (2) vessels sinking due to imbalanced container loading.
As of July 1, 2016, containerized cargo will only be loaded onto a vessel if it bears a Verified Gross Mass. Under SOLAS, originating shippers are tasked with providing verified weights for cargo–not vessel owners or ports.
U.S. shippers were quick to refute the London organization’s added task, and were pleased when a U.S. Coast Guard admiral voiced that his only concern was that containers loaded onto vessels have verified weight; how the cargo got that weight was a business decision to be worked out between shippers and maritime carriers.
SOLAS and the Trucking Industry
The comment made above by the U.S. Coast Guard admiral resulted in many domestic shippers stating that they intend to operate as usual, meaning they do not plan to weigh their containerized cargo. In response, some maritime terminals have said that they may refuse to allow a container into the port if a verified weight hasn’t been received. However, other maritime terminals have suggested a willingness to weigh and verify cargo at the port.
Therefore, carriers need to decide if they are going to accept containerized cargo without a verified weight from the originating shipper. Doing so would run the risk that a carrier is turned away at the terminal’s gates. This brings up the point that carriers must also develop procedures for if a load is turned away from a maritime terminal. Does the driver return the load to the originating shipper? Are there additional costs due to the disruption to the carrier’s operating schedule?
With the implementation of SOLAS on July 1, we can expect more questions and issues to arise related to weight verification.
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