Container Weight Mandate (SOLAS) Effective July 2016

On July 1, 2016, a new SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea convention of the International Maritime Organization or IMO) takes effect requiring shippers whose name appears on the bill of lading to verify the gross mass of a container carrying cargo when tendering the container to the ocean carriers and terminals. Many questions remain unanswered, and rules and legal enforcement are likely to vary potentially widely among countries, ocean carriers and marine terminals, making this rule likely a big headache for shippers to comply with.

But a few things are already clear: On July 1, the rule becomes not just international law under the IMO but national law within the 170 countries and three associate members that are signatories to the IMO, and that the legally responsible party for providing a verified gross mass (VGM) signed either electronically or on paper resides with the shipper. Early analysis suggests the ocean carrier and the marine terminal will be strict in not accepting containers lacking an accompanying VGM since under the SOLAS rule they can be held responsible for loading a container for which a VGM hasn’t been provided.