Take responsibility

Industry Database

The countdown clock is tick, tick, ticking down for terminals to take their stance on container weighing. Before we collectively stifle a yawn - this has been on the radar for at least two years, no matter how many complain of its 'last minuteness' - terminals really need to get their act together.

TT Club's Laurence Jones told a room of operators at TOC Asia last month that he has been consistency surprised at the number of people in the industry that still do not know that this regulation is coming. And it’s a matter of mere weeks before it comes into force.

Container terminals are not required to do anything to meet the international regulations; those terminals that have offered up box weighing services are either looking to make an extra buck on value-add services or are putting the cherry on the top of the customer service cake for clients.

But those terminals that have either publically declared that they will not offer weighing services and those that haven’t taken a decision either way have not absolved themselves of responsibility.

What happens when a container turns up at the terminal without a certificate confirming its verified gross mass (VGM) as the rules prescribe, or if the VGM is incomplete or inaccurate? Knowing who to charge for any discrepancies is one thing, but more importantly, in terms of operational efficiency, is what to do with that rogue container, or two, or twenty?

Will a dedicated stacking area need to be created to handle the problem boxes? Can containers be sent back to depots, and if so who will pick up the bill for the double haulage? Until we have a true sense of the scale of the problem it’s difficult to answer these questions and that will only become apparent post deadline day on July 1.

There are terminals that might be tempted to bank on a lack of enforcement, removing the need for them to take difficult decisions on charging and space allocation. But these terminals will be in for a shock. The rule is no verified gross mass, no loading; break that, and you will be breaking the law. Added to which, you will be laying yourself open to increased liability, not something that your insurer will want to hear.

Yes, this regulation is a pain for many in the supply chain, including ports. Yes, it’s penalising the majority that were already providing accurate container weights. But in spite of those negatives, the bigger picture is that safety in the entire supply chain is being addressed through this SOLAS amendment. Those trying to find ways to shirk their responsibilities should step back and think long and hard about this.

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