Come July, exporters in East Africa will pay more, when a new requirement on weighing and verifying containers is implemented globally.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is making verification of weights a condition for loading packed export containers aboard ships to conform to amended changes to Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.
Safety is a driver of change as each year over 135 million containers enter the global supply chain, but many lack accurate weight estimates, contributing to costly shipping accidents.
The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) said SOLAS changes aim to curb under-declaring weight of cargo that can lead to shipwrecks, destruction of goods and pollution if hazardous cargo spills into the sea.
The global rule for shippers to provide verified gross mass (VGM) for every packed container complete with correct documentation targeting enhanced safety is expected to increase cost of operations with consumers bearing the brunt.
A container without VGM will not be loaded on a ship from July 1. A shipper sending goods will be responsible for proper verified weighing of packed container and documentation for cargo to be loaded on a vessel. Any container exceeding maximum gross mass will not be loaded to a ship.
KMA acting director-general Cosmas Cherop said a container leaving a port will have a document signed either electronically or in hard copy by the shipper on bill of lading. Shippers will make the information available in advance to the port and the shipping line.
The first method of obtaining VGM entails using calibrated certified equipment to weigh the packed container. The second method is to weigh each item including cargo, palleting, dunnage, other packing with securing gears and adding weight of the container to get VGM. Shippers using either of the two methods will have to be registered and approved by KMA.
There is a significant variance of the cost for weighing a container globally. The fees could range from $136 to $225 depending on the location and the fees levied by the gross mass verifier.
IMO in May 2014 approved proposed changes to SOLAS regulation requiring verification of packed containers’ weights as a condition for vessel loading. IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee on November 21, 2014 adopted the new SOLAS requirement to enter into force on July 1.
KMA researcher Joyce Awino said ships have been taking exporters at their word only to end up with under-declared weight.
She said VGM requires documents be sent in advance to shipping line agents and port authority. In case of non-compliance, the container will not be loaded on the ship and a shipper’s registration may be withdrawn by KMA.
The VGM regulation will be enforced by KMA and Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) respectively in Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports as export points for East and Central Africa region.
Sumatra started a trial implementation of VGM at the Dar es Salaam port in February ahead of the July start date.
Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd said the responsibility for obtaining and documenting the verified gross mass of a packed container lies with the shipper shown on the ocean carrier bill of lading.
“The shipper’s responsibility is to provide VGM to the ocean carrier or port terminal in order to meet the SOLAS and local regulatory requirements or specific port terminal procedures where applicable,” said the logistics firm.
Mitsui O.S.K Lines, CMA CGM Group, Mrspedag, DP World, United Africa Feeder Lines and Hutchison Port Holdings are among companies that have notified customers about implementation of VGM.