A weighty issue on the west coast

Container weighing - who will accept responsibility at individual terminals? Container weighing - who will accept responsibility at individual terminals?

In the US, the West Coast MTO Agreement (WCMTOA) says that all of its member terminals are incapable of providing verified gross mass (VGM) weighing services as per the new SOLAS guidelines going into effect on July 1.

The collective announcement by the member terminals was based on the lack of terminal infrastructure necessary to obtain VGMs using the methods specified within the guideline amendments.

These amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), require shippers to notify ocean carriers of the weight of containers before they are loaded onto a ship.

A spokesperson told Port Strategy that individual member terminals will now establish and communicate their own policies for handling VGM procedures at their own terminals.

“For example, a terminal may opt to refuse to accept a container onto the terminal if the VGM has not been received, or it may opt to receive the container and hold it until the VGM is received before loading it to the ship,” they said.

WCMTOA, which comprises the 13 marine terminal operators serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, is not the only collective on the west coast to issue a statement on the issue.        

The Oakland MTO Agreement (OAKMTOA) has also said that all three member terminals are incapable of providing VGM weighing services that adhere to the SOLAS guidelines due to a lack of infrastructure. Here it will also be left to individual terminals to communicate their own policies to shippers. OAKMTOA is filed with the Federal Maritime Commission and comprises the three marine terminal operators serving the Port of Oakland.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

The trouble is there is to be no one size fits all approach to the container weighing issue. Confusion has centred mainly around the issue of whether it’s mandatory (which it is) and who the responsibility lies with – the shipper or the terminal.

But many ports and terminals agree that if they don’t have a solution in place by the time the deadline rolls around they will be left holding the baby if containers get backed up on the quay.

This is something that west coast terminals will clearly want to avoid, having suffered congestion issues over the last few years.

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