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New maritime rule may jeopardize container trade, coalition says

U.S. exporters and importers could be faced with added costs and port turmoil this summer due to new martime cargo rule, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition says.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on February 11, 2016 4:37PM

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson File
The Port of Seattle is shown in this 2015 file photo. A new ruled requiring shippers to certify the weight of containers and their cargo threatens to disrupt port operations, a trade coalition says.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson File The Port of Seattle is shown in this 2015 file photo. A new ruled requiring shippers to certify the weight of containers and their cargo threatens to disrupt port operations, a trade coalition says.

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A new maritime rule on container weight documentation that goes into effect July 1 could create “major turmoil at marine terminals” and “significantly impede” U.S. exports, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition warns.

The coalition, based in Washington, D.C., is calling for a congressional inquiry into how the London-based International Maritime Organization adopted the rule without U.S. exporter or importer notice or advice or consideration of the impact it would have on the U.S. economy.

The rule, an amendment to IMO’s Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will require all shippers, importers and exporters, to certify and submit the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) to steamship lines and terminal operators before containers are loaded onto vessels, the coalition says.

VGM is the combined weight of cargo and container. Currently, the shipper is responsible for accurately reporting the weight of cargo. The shipper does not own, control or maintain containers which are owned or leased by carriers.

The amendment was created in response to claims of incidents of damage due to overweight containers although the IMO SOLAS committee did not reference any instance where a ship was damaged or sank exclusively due to overweight underreported containers, the coalition states in a Feb. 9 position paper.

Peter Friedmann, executive director, could not be reached for comment.

There has been no congressional or federal review or approval of the rule and no input from the shipping community, the paper states.

Shippers, steamship lines, terminal operators and governments are scrambling to create best practices and guidelines for the new rule, according to the coalition.

Weights printed on containers are typically not accurate, the rule imposes liability on the shipper to certify equipment it does not own, it will disrupt flow of cargo through ports and no means exist to facilitate VGM data, the coalition’s paper states.

The rule will result in new costs on all participants in the U.S. export supply chain, the paper states.

The coalition calls on the Federal Maritime Commission and Coast Guard to convene a working group of stakeholders. Exporters should only be responsible for certifying the weight of cargo and steamship lines should be responsible for reporting weight of containers, the paper states.

The coalition makes several other recommendations including that the U.S. should not implement the rule until the top 15 trading partners, as measured by ocean container volumes, have implemented it.



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