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July10, 2017

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 52 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE www.joc.com JULY 10.2017 By Hugh R. Morley A YEAR AFTER the implementation of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirement that shippers provide the verified gross mass (VGM) of each container before it could be loaded onto a vessel, the once hot-button fears about the regulation have disappeared. However, doubts on the accu- racy of declarations linger. Fears were generally unfounded that the International Maritime Organization's rule, which took effect July 1, 2016, would disrupt ports, increase congestion, raise the cost of moving cargo, and result in containers left behind on docks as shippers struggled to provide the correct information, trade groups and industry officials say. Instead, the industry has adapted, and moved on, accepting the demands of the IMO's once controversial rule, which made the shipper responsible for providing the weight, and it became law in May 2014 with the signatures of 162 members. But executives from two separate global terminal operators told The Journal of Com- merce that they question just how accurate the VGMs are at some ports, particularly develop- ing countries. Israel is one of the few signees of the SOLAS rule that has been checking VGM declarations, raising questions on just how much hold the rules have because there is little scrutiny of VGM accuracy. And Russian regulators say they frequently see VGMs that are less than the real weight. Others believe that most shippers are complying with the rule, and the indus- try has accepted the responsibilities that co me with it. Inna Kuznetsova, president and chief operating officer of INTTRA, the Parsippany-based electronic transaction platform and information provider, has a theory as to why the industry — which has had difficulty adapting to change elsewhere, especially with new technology — adapted relatively easily to the SOLAS requirements. " It d id n 't h a v e a le g a c y," s a id Kuznetsova, whose company developed a platform through which to deliver weight information to carriers. "It didn't have that, 'We've done it for 30 years by phone, fax.' And the industry embraced the digital approach. And I think that's largely why the implementation went relatively easily." The SOLAS amendment was aimed at preventing accidents at sea and in ports caused by overloaded containers that can create unbalanced stowage and endanger vessels. They were designed to prevent the kind of unevenly distributed cargo loads that are cited as possible causes of accidents such as that that occurred with MSC Napoli, when it foundered and was beached in the English Channel in 2007, or the MOL Com- fort, which broke in half in 2013. The international regulation became controversial after trade groups raised con- cerns about legal liability, the need to tweak computer systems to serve as a conduit for providing VGM, the absence of certified weight scales at some terminals, and what to do with containers that miss a sailing because no VGM has been provided. A three-month "go-easy" period in enforc- ing the VGM container weight rule gave the industry time to adjust. And by the end of that period, 95 percent of containers moving glob- ally had the needed information. They were helped by a cottage industry that sprung up to provide devices and equipment to help ship- pers meet the regulation, including weighing machines to determine a container's weight and software — such as INTTRA's — to help submit the weight information. John Butler, president and CEO of the World Shipping Council, which was heav- ily involved in the creation of the law, said shippers have accepted the requirement as part and parcel of trading. ACCURACY IN QUESTION SOLAS container weight mandate in the rear view, but doubts on VGM accuracy haunt

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