Focus of container weight rule swings to the terminal gate
Compliance with the new container weight verification rule that will be imposed on July 1 is beginning to crystallize around two key points for shippers: What is the carrier cut-off time for submission of the verified gross mass, and will boxes without the VGM be stopped at the gate?
The cut-off time is needed so shippers, especially those with multiple vendors in different locations, can base their internal processes around it, and knowing whether a box will be turned away at the gate, or accepted and held to one side, will make all the difference.
The problem being faced by the carriers is that issuing a standard, global cut-off time at all ports is impossible as every terminal in the world has different requirements that carriers have to operate around. Yet even with this critical information hard to come by, Inttra President and COO Inna Kuznetsova warned that waiting for absolute guidance before getting ready for the rule was not an option.
“Many shippers seem to be waiting for 100 percent clarity on everything, from cut-off dates to punitive measures, to different systems between countries and terminals, but delaying the preparedness will backfire,” she told reporters at a briefing on the company’s eVGM solution in Hong Kong.
“The message we are sending to the industry is that it is necessary to start working urgently on SOPs (standard operating procedures) and processes, and training, in addition to IT systems, to prepare for the submission of the VGM.”
With just three months to go to July 1 and disparate messages being delivered by governments and enforcement agencies, one thing is certain: Carriers cannot load a container for which it has not received a VGM declaration from the shipper. The reason is that to do so would leave the ship out of compliance with rules of its own flag state and its insurers, leaving it vulnerable to liability in the event of an accident.
Jim Whalen, president of Inttra Asia, said with less than 90 days to go, a sense of urgency was building in getting the industry prepared for the rule, and one of the chief concerns was what happens to a non-compliant box at the gate.
“Shippers are listening for guidance from the carriers on what they want and when they want to have it,” he said. “They want guidance from the terminals. What happens when my container arrives without a VGM? Will you let me in the gate?”
If the container was turned away, that would create tremendous upheaval. In Hong Kong, for instance, the driver will be stuck outside a terminal with an export box brought across the border from Shenzhen that carries export shipping instructions. Taking the container back to the factory would be complicated.
Whalen said a significant amount of information was outstanding. “The regulation will be implemented at a country level so it is up to each country to indicate how they plan to enforce it, how it will be complied with, what tolerances will be allowed — so the shipper community is looking for guidance.”
Even though many questions remained — and several industry executives told JOC.com there was an element of denial among shippers — the bigger beneficial cargo owners are not waiting for all the answers before preparing internally.
A global shipper based in Hong Kong explained the huge effort required to capture and input accurate VGMs into company systems before the info can be transmitted to container terminals and container lines. He said multiple departments needed to be involved, from the initial brand design, to packaging, procurement, shipping and logistics, a time-consuming and human resource-sapping process.
Ultimately, the global shipper said by July 1, “or hopefully not long thereafter,” his company hoped to have installed standard operating procedures on cargo weight that would stretch across all product lines made by the company, either in-house or outsourced.