SOLAS convention implementation draws near

 calendar Friday, 01 April 2016 06:40

The International Maritime Authority’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2014 approved changes to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention regarding a mandatory container weight verification requirement for shippers worldwide. In November 2014, the IMO adopted the mandatory amendments to the International Convention for the SOLAS Chapter VI, Part A, Regulation 2 on cargo information. The new requirement comes to effect on 1st July 2016 and mandates shippers whose name appears on the bill of lading to verify the gross mass of a container carrying cargo before tendering the container to the ocean carriers and terminals.

This essentially means that the shipper of a packed export container, regardless of who packed it, must provide the container’s verified gross weight (VGW) to the port terminal representative and the ocean carrier prior to loading on a ship. The vessel and terminal operators are required to use the VGW in vessel stowage plans and are prohibited from loading a packed container aboard a vessel without it.

The amendment was in recognition of the problems associated with misdeclared cargo weight such as damage to the port terminal facilities, railway and road damage, endangering of road users, uneven weight distribution across the ship which may cause instability and damage to the ship, lost cargo and damaged containers at sea causing environmental concerns, and the impact on the health and safety of crew and stevedores.

It is estimated about 20% of container accidents in the world are due to weight under-declaration, cargo misdeclaration, insufficient securing/supporting and incorrect cargo distribution in container.  Four accidents involving container vessels between 1998 and 2006 caused estimated losses of US$75 million per accident.

A technical committee led by Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) was established to progress the implementation in Kenya. So far they have drafted regulations and procedures, and conducted awareness workshops in Nairobi and Mombasa in March 2016. Tanzania has started piloting with a few shippers.