Amendments to Chapter VI reg2 SOLAS 2015 – Getting ready
Although the amendments to SOLAS are to be welcomed, much uncertainty remains as to their implementation. While the MCA has produced a guidance note providing, amongst other things, details on how accreditation under Method 2 might be obtained, comments made by the US Coast Guard would seem to suggest that they consider themselves to have no authority to check that shippers are providing VGMs. In addition, decisions as to how to implement the mandatory regulations are to be taken at local state level. This has generated significant controversy as it will almost certainly result in different standards or procedures being adopted in different jurisdictions. This is already being seen in relation to issues such as the ‘margin for error’ that is allowed when calculating the VGM.
Whilst it is not anticipated that the container trade will grind to a halt on 1 July 2016, there is likely to be disruption and a period of adjustment to be endured by the liner industry. Carriers should take pro-active steps to prepare themselves for 1 July 2016 and may wish to consider some of the following:
- ascertaining which is the Competent Authority in the jurisdictions in which they operate and how the amendments will be implemented by that Competent Authority;
- putting in place procedures to ensure that all containers included in the stow plan/loaded have VGMs;
- putting in place procedures to deal with containers which arrive without a VGM;
- amending any contracts in place with terminals so as to enable VGMs to be obtained for containers that arrive without a VGM; considering whether the present “cut off dates” by which containers are received are sufficient in light of the amendments to SOLAS;
- putting in place systems to allow the efficient transfer of VGMs from shippers;
- reviewing any contractual arrangements with shippers to expressly deal with the allocation of costs and losses which arise where a container does not have a VGM and shipment is delayed; and whether the manner by which maximum and tare weights shown on those containers comply with the ISO Standard for Container Marking and Identification.