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Feb.22, 2016

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 18 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE FEBRUARY 22.2016 JOC Staff ENFORCEMENT OF THE SOLAS container weight mandate for U.S. exports — if there is any — will be done by each port, and the U.S. Coast Guard will only get involved if it boards an incoming vessel and finds it doesn't have verified gross mass for each box. Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, the agency's assistant commandant for prevention policy, also poured cold water on U.S. exporters' hope that the Coast Guard would delay the rule, saying "that would be something that would have to happen at" the International Mari- time Organization, which created the rule. "The only reason I'm even entertain- ing the idea of putting a policy letter out is because of all the angst in the industry," Thomas told The Journal of Commerce. The Coast Guard doesn't already have spe- cific guidelines on how to enforce the IMO's container weight rules, he added, "because I've never needed it." He said the Coast Guard will detain a vessel and require the country under which the ship is flagged to clear the detention. Thomas didn't disclose whether the carrier would be fined. The U.S. Coast Guard now detains about 10 to 12 vessels monthly, both container and non-container ships, and the reasons are generally for safety and environ- mental violations. The interview with Thomas provides some of the first insights into how the Coast Guard will and won't enforce the global mandate requiring shippers to pro - vide a verified gross mass, or VGM, based on actual weighing of the cargo, starting July 1. The mandate, under an amendment to the IMO's, Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, convention originally approved in 2014, pre- vents carriers from shipping any containers without the VGM. But U.S. exporters hoping the U.S. Coast Guard policy letter, expected to be released this month, will clear up their confusion should look elsewhere. The letter will con- tain very little not already covered in the IMO convention, and it's up to shippers and carriers to prepare for the rule that takes effect July 1, Thomas said. He said it's unlikely the policy will include a margin of error between the VGM and any containers weighed at the port. "If agricultural products can vary as much as 10 percent based on temperature, then the vessel's master has to account for that in determining the safe loading of the vessel. But there's no way to write a policy to cover every single loading condition of a vessel," Thomas said. He planned to attend a Feb. 18 meeting between shippers and container lines at the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to find out why the industry hasn't worked through potential problems sooner. In contrast, Japan has drafted guidelines and revised ministry ordinances that outline penalties and variation between the verified gross mass and actual weight of a container. The two revised ordinances of the transport ministry, which contain administrative pun- ishments, including fines, for violators of the new international rules, are scheduled to be promulgated on April 1. "The need for (weight) information in terms of the safe operation of the vessel has always been there, so my question to the industry is, how did you meet that before July 1? This is why I say shippers and car - riers need to get their act together, because they're in business together," Thomas said. Some shippers, however, say it's not so clear-cut about how to meet the mandate, SOLAS ENFORCEMENT GOES TO THE PORTS The Coast Guard says it won't be responsible for policing the IMO's container weight mandate in the U.S. Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst, U.S. Coast Guard

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