U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Commissioner William P. Doyle issued a statement on the upcoming implementation of the SOLAS Convention’s verified gross mass (VGM) requirements:
On Friday, June 24, 2016, I voted to allow the Port Operations and Safety Discussion Agreement to go into effect pursuant to an expedited review process. The agreement was filed by OCEMA and on behalf of the ports of Boston, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia
and Houston. The initial filing of this agreement by OCEMA contained language that was overly broad, sweeping in nature and indefinite in time. It’s our duty as a Commission to make sure the shipping community including exporters and consumers are not harmed by certain actions taken by entities under the cover of the Shipping Act. Thus, after extensive discussions with the FMC, OCEMA agreed to several language changes that are now contained in the FMC approved discussion agreement. This Agreement allows members of OCEMA the six operating ports to discuss common practices for obtaining and communicating the VGM of containers in compliance with the U.S. Coast Guard Equivalency to the SOLAS Convention. The vote by the Commission was unanimous.
The Federal Maritime Commission’s expedited review of the agreement has already led to increased clarity about how VGM requirements will be implemented beginning July 1. OCEMA supports a common nationwide Terminal Weighing Approach. Ports, terminals and carriers that choose to utilize the Terminal Weighing Approach would then specify in port and/or terminal schedules and carrier tariffs that shippers authorize the use of terminal weighing to obtain a VGM.
Many ports are taking steps to implement VGM requirements including a recent announcement that all six terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey will
offer weighing services.
I appreciate the work of all parties in coming together to find solutions for implementing VGM requirements. Less than two months ago, there were still significant questions about the liability for container tare weights and the process of submitting VGM information. Carriers have since agreed to issue tariff rules with the FMC that hold shippers harmless for inaccurate tare weights. Further, the latest discussions on terminal weighing methods will hopefully resolve questions about obtaining and transmitting VGM information. Of course, shippers, such as scrap metal exporters, have the ability to weigh their own containers if they so desire pursuant to the SOLAS rules.
There is still more work that can be done, and if all stakeholders continue to communicate, there will be minimal interference when the SOLAS amendment goes into effect at the end of the week. We have a three month VGM phase-in about to take effect—let’s keep working together and get this thing right.