US Coast Guard: SOLAS container weight guidelines not mandatory

LONG BEACH, California — The SOLAS guidelines on container weight verification that will be implemented from July 1 are not mandatory, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Thomas told a packed TPM Conference here Tuesday.

“They are not mandatory under SOLAS, they are not mandatory under any U.S. regulation. It says that right on top — these are non-mandatory guidelines,” he said in a panel discussion on the verified gross mass rule.

As far as the Coast Guard was concerned, complying with the VGM rule was a business procedure issue. “SOLAS places no legal obligation on the shipper. It places a legal obligation only on the vessel subject to SOLAS. So if you need to meet that obligation by working on a better business practice with your partners, that’s where you need to focus,” Thomas said.

On July 1, a new international rule under the Safety of Life at Sea convention will come into effect, requiring shippers to present a signed cargo weight verification to ocean carriers prior to the containers being loaded a vessel. The rule has created huge uncertainty around the world with the governments of 162 signatories to SOLAS struggling to draw up guidelines on how their respective jurisdictions will police the rule.

It has become an increasingly acrimonious issue in the U.S. with shipper groups saying they are already in compliance and don’t plan to change the way they operate.

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