Solas Guidelines Review
May 19, 2016
The International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will become legally binding on 1 July 2016, which sets out certain mandatory requirements for shippers on container gross mass verification, the changes were adopted by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in 2014.
These changes are applicable to construction, equipment and operational practices between the parties in the international supply chain involved, in regards to the movement of containers by sea, to ensure the safety of the ship, the safety of workers both aboard ships and ashore, the safety of the cargo and overall safety at sea.
Henceforth the presentation of cargo are fundamental, without a verified gross mass, the packed container shall not be loaded aboard ship.
Fundamental principles under the SOLAS requirements*
1. Before a packed container can be loaded onto a ship, its weight must be determined through weighing. It is a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container aboard a vessel to which SOLAS applies without a proper weight verification. There is no exception to this requirement.
2. Under the SOLAS amendments, there are two permissible methods for weighing: Method 1, which requires weighing the container after it has been packed, or Method 2, which requires weighing all the cargo and contents of the container and adding those weights to the container’s tare weight as indicated on the door end of the container.
3. Estimating weight is not permitted. The shipper (or by arrangement of the shipper, a third party) has a responsibility to weigh the packed container or to weigh its contents. Under either Method, the weighing equipment used must meet national certification and calibration requirements. Further, the party packing the container cannot use the weight somebody else has provided, except in one specific set of defined circumstances.
4. A carrier may rely on a shipper’s signed weight verification to be accurate. The carrier does not need to be a “verifier” of the shipper’s weight verification. Nor do the SOLAS amendments require a carrier to verify that a shipper providing a verified weight according to Method 2 has used a method which has been certified and approved by the competent authority of the jurisdiction in which the packing and sealing of the container was completed. However, it is important to note that, for the shipper’s weight verification to be compliant with the SOLAS requirement, it must be “signed”, meaning a specific person representing the shipper is named and identified as having verified the accuracy of the weight calculation on behalf of the shipper.
5. The lack of a signed shipper weight verification can be remedied by weighing the packed container at the port. If the marine terminal does not have equipment to weigh the container and provide a verified weight, alternative means must be found to obtain a verified container weight; otherwise, the packed container may not be loaded on to the ship.
6. When a marine terminal receives a packed export container that does not have a signed shipper weight verification, there will need to be processes in place at the terminal for obtaining the weight of such containers and using such weights in the vessel stow plan. Terminals and carriers will need to agree on how these situations will be handled.
7. If a packed container is weighed at the load port, that weight is to be used for vessel stow planning.
8. Vessel stow plans should use verified weights for all packed containers loaded on board.