ContainersEuropePorts and Logistics

‘Urgent coordinated action’ needed ahead of container weighing implementation

National authorities in Europe must take “urgent coordinated action” to ensure a level playing field when new regulations enter into force on July 1 mandating the weight verification of sea-bound containers, European transport associations say.

The Federation of European Private Port Operators (FEPORT); the European Shippers’ Council (ESC), the European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistic and Customs Services (CLECAT) and European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) issued a joint statement today, saying logistics chains within the continent will be subject to “competition distortion and significant interruption” if no action is taken before the July deadline.

When the new SOLAS amendment comes into force, the “shipper”, as named in the ocean carrier’s bill of lading, must declare in advance to the carrier the verified gross mass (VGM) of packed containers. However, it has been left to national authorities to decide their own standards on tolerances applied to container-weighing equipment, and how approved shippers are certified to issue VGM certificates.

Supply chain operators and national authorities in Europe should work towards commonly accepted guidelines in order to minimise distorting competition and ensure smooth functioning of the requirements, the European organisations stated today.

Bottlenecks and delays in the supply chain could be caused by an over-reliance on weighbridges, especially if VGM requirements are too stringent, the organisations warn.

“In order to avoid market distortions, it is important that countries around Europe adopt similar standards on certification which are not overly restrictive and do not have an adverse impact on the functioning of the logistics chain. So as to ensure transparency and certainty for all actors in the supply chain, evidence should be available when required of the shipper’s authorisation to provide a VGM,” the organisations said.

The recommendations are made all the more urgent by a recent survey by the Federation of National Agents and Ship Brokers Association (FONASBA), which found that nearly 50% of IMO member states have issued no guidance on the practical application of container-weighing measures. What is more, the report found that around 20% of member states have not yet appointed a national authority to oversee the scheme from July.

Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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