Container weight verification issue remains a dilemma

By BCShippingNews
February 22 2016
US Coast Guard to keep to July 1 deadline despite calls for delay...

Submitted by Colin Laughlan:

Following the release of a position paper earlier this month by the Washington DC-based Agricultural Transport Coalition (AgTC), a hastily convened meeting of the Federal Maritime Commission last week heard industry concerns over meeting the July 1 deadline for implementing a workable system for verifying the weights of containers loaded with export cargo from U.S. ports. Among its several challenges to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) verification rule, The AgTC paper called on the US Coast Guard to delay the implementation date to allow all stakeholders to determine best practices for the verification. The US Coast Guard announced it will stick to the July 1, 2016  deadline, which was established when the amendment to the International Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS) convention was adopted in 2014. AgTC Executive Director Peter Freidman could not be reached today for a comment.

However, the possibility of a delayed implementation date has focused attention on SOLAS article VIII (b) vii (2) which states in part “…before the date for entry into force, any contracting Government may give notice … that it exempts itself from giving effect to that amendment for a period of not longer than one year from the date of its entry into force.”

In Canada, the issue has also been raised by the Pulse Canada, an industry organization representing producers of specialty grains. “There’s an outside chance it could be delayed, but [Transport Canada] made it clear that’s probably not going to happen,” Pulse Canada spokesperson Greg Northey told BCSN.

“That’s a very difficult thing to do at the IMO – they’d have to have a country bring it forward.”

IMO spokesperson Natasha Brown told BCSN the legality of a delay would be a matter of interpretation. “The party would need to interpret ‘before the date of entry into force’," she said.

Transport Canada refused to say whether the legal possibility exists, saying only that “Transport Canada enforces the International Maritime Organization’s requirements in Canada. The new requirement will come into force here on July 1, 2016.”

Northey said the agricultural industry in Canada is waiting for guidance from Transport Canada’s Maritime Safety Committee on whether grain will be eligible for Method 2 verification, which allows for the weight of a container’s contents to be added to the container’s tare weight.

“From the agriculture side, the way our product moves, the increasing trend is for it to go bulk to Vancouver, and so it gets loaded bulk into a container. Grain goes across a scale as it goes into the container – it gets weighed there,” said Northey.

Click here for the AgTC-SOLAS Position Paper.