Most shippers not ready for new container weighing rules

Only 30% of cargo owners globally say they are ready to meet full compliance with new container weight verification rules that kick in next year, according to a survey by Inttra, a global intermediary in the logistics market.

The findings chime with a warning in October by the Freight Transport Association that shippers could fall foul of the new legislation if they do not verify the gross mass of containers before shipment.

The International Maritime Organization has adopted amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea convention requiring every packed export container to have its weight verified before being loaded onto a ship. The rules come into force on July 1, 2016.

Two thirds of the 410 respondents to the Inttra survey forecast major or moderate disruption in the industry as a result of unreadiness, while cargo owners in Asia-Pacific (42%) and Africa (22%) foresaw the greatest level of disruption.

A majority of the respondents say they favour a digital solution, as current paper-based practices appear inadequate to expedite reporting of verified gross mass, or VGM, of packed containers.

Inttra is a US-based multi-carrier e-commerce marketplace for ocean shipping and serves as an intermediary between carriers and cargo owners.

The IMO has specified that two methods of verifying weight are acceptable: either weighing the packed container using certified and calibrated equipment or using a calculated weight method, which involves summing the individual items separately, and adding the tare weight of the container and packing materials using an approved process.

Separately, Inttra announced the formation of a group of major logistics providers to create standards and for digital solutions to meet compliance requirements, called  the eVGM Initiative. Inttra described itself as the initiator of the group, which includes APL, BDP International, CEVA, Damco, Hapag Lloyd, Hamburg Sud and Kuehne + Nagel.

Concerns over probable disruption associated with the new compliance requirements, like those voiced by the FTA, have emerged now that the deadline is a little more than a half year away.

“These survey results are consistent with that, as they reflect concerns over potential disruption and lack of preparedness,” Inttra Marketplace president Inna Kuznetsova said. “We believe that co-ordinated action can facilitate a smooth transition.”

The group says that its main goal is to advocate a ‘digital-first’ approach to Solas VGM compliance and to “foster agreement or consensus on a technology standard and standard business process for digital documentation of VGM submissions”, according to the Inttra release.

“It is an initiative which allows companies in the queue to come together to find a standard in a common way,” said Ms Kuznetsova. She says that in an environment of historical low container shipping rates, most cargo owners have limited budgets for developing new information technology applications. The unified approach is calculated to save time and investment.

“Unless global VGM communication standards and practices are adopted quickly, the VGM requirements might create confusion and chaos when implemented in June and July next year,” said Otto Schacht, Kuehne + Nagel’s global director of seafreight operations, as quoted in the Inttra statement.