A group of 49 organizations representing the foundation of the U.S. export economy has sent a letter to the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard thanking him for a ruling that exporters and importers will not have to change the way they document container weight.

The March 14 letter to Adm. Paul F. Zukunft thanked him for a Feb. 25 decision by Rear Adm. Paul Thomas. The letter was signed by 49 export groups of agriculture, forest products, manufacturing and other industries headed by the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and national associations of meat, potatoes, onions, hay, cotton and other commodities and groups in Oregon, Washington, California and other states signed the letter.

Earlier in February, the AgTC warned that a new maritime rule from the London-based International Maritime Organization could create “major turmoil at marine terminals” and “significantly impede” U.S. exports.

The rule, an amendment to IMO’s Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) going into effect July 1, requires 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.

VGM is the combined weight of cargo and container. Currently, the shipper is responsible to accurately report the weight of cargo, but no one reports the VGM, Peter Friedmann, AgTC’s executive director, has said. Requiring that would cause major disruption, he said.

AgTC met with Thomas, Federal Maritime commissioners and five steamship line executives on Feb. 18. Subsequently, Thomas stated the rule is flexible in how carriers can get VGM and that current business practices comply.

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