SOLAS container weight rule able to be delayed

WASHINGTON — The United States and any other country that is party to SOLAS can delay implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s controversial container weight rule by up to a year, a fact bound to increase pressure on the U.S. Coast Guard to extend the deadline past July 1 to avoid potential trade disruption.

According to Article VIII(b)(vii)(2) to the amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea convention, any of the 162 signatory nations can inform the IMO of a delay of up to one year as long as it notifies the U.N. agency before the rule takes effect on July 1.

On behalf of its container line membership, the World Shipping Council has pushed for the rule requiring shippers to physically weigh containers and their cargo and present to carriers a signed Verified Gross Mass document for each container before it can be loaded at the port of origin. In several communications to the industry, the WSC has stated that the rule will become effective on July 1, without noting the possibility of any delay. WSC members control some 90 percent of global container capacity.  

The delay option will empower U.S. exporters, who this month called on the Coast Guard to delay the rule until it can be amended and determined that they won’t face a competitive disadvantage against foreign exporters. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition also called for a congressional inquiry. Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Washington-based group, said the Coast Guard could delay implementation much the same way the Secretary of Homeland Security delayed implementation of the 100 percent scanning requirement for all inbound containers as mandated under the 2006 Safe Ports Act. Congress repeatedly has given the department the go-ahead to delay the scanning mandate.

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