New maritime shipping regulations may put shippers and clearing agents in trouble in the event of failure of compliance.
Jocye Awino from the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), asserted that the new Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) rule that will be effected on July 1, require shippers to present verified gross mass (VGM) certificates before their containers are loaded on vessels. SOLAS regulations make it mandatory for shippers to verify the gross weight of every export cargo prior to loading. The amended law was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation last year.
Speaking during a sensitisation workshop on the new SOLAS held in Kigali, Kenya maritime officials remarked that the new guidelines are designed to improve maritime safety and trade across the region. Moreover, they would address the increasing cases of under declaration of container weights that has often resulted into casualties to vessels, crew members and stevedores, and damage to vessels lifting equipment. The requirements will be enforced by KMA at the port of Mombasa, with authorities conducting simultaneous inspection of up to 25 containers before they are loaded onto a ship, he added
Though shippers welcomed the new regulation, they are worried the requirement could become another non-tariff barrier if it is not implemented properly and cautiously.
Theodore Murenzi, the vice-chairperson of the Rwanda Shippers’ Council, said the new regulations need to be harmonised with the weigh bridge system to avoid any unnecessary delays of cargo.
How the new regulation works
SOLAS prescribes two methods through which shippers can obtain verified gross mass of a packed container, after weighing a packed and sealed container.
However, weighing the cargo, including packaging and dunnage (securing) materials and the tare weight of the container, will be approved and certified.
It is essential that containers are weighed accurately using equipment accredited by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications and national standards bodies, experts say. Any discrepancy between a packed container’s gross mass and its verified gross mass should be resolved by use of the VGM. A container that exceeds its maximum permitted gross mass is not loaded onto a vessel.
The same applies in circumstances, where a container is delivered to a port terminal without the shipper providing the VGM of the container. Ultimately, only cargo that is deemed safe and meeting guidelines should be loaded for onward transportation. Alternatively, shippers can weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other securing material to be packed in the container and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses.
Shippers are expected to list all types of equipment used in weighing the packed container or cargo items, packaging materials, pallets, dunnage, including scales, weighbridge, lifting weighing equipment. Only a single container on vehicle shall be weighed at any one given time, according to the new guidelines.
The Port of Mombasa is the gateway to East and Central Africa, and is one of the busiest Ports along the East African coastline. The Port provides direct connectivity to over 80 Ports worldwide and is linked to a vast hinterland comprising Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia by road