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Port Operations and Safety Discussion Agreement Clears FMC Regulatory Review

June 27, 2016

NR 16-10

Contact: Karen V. Gregory, Secretary (202-523-5725)

The Federal Maritime Commission voted unanimously to allow the Port Operations and Safety Discussion Agreement (FMC Agreement No. 201233) to go into effect. This new discussion agreement will guarantee shippers a flexible approach to meet new International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements for the provision of container weights at six U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports.

In making this determination, the Commission also granted the agreement expedited review allowing it to become effective prior to the July 1, 2016, implementation date of the new IMO requirements.

"Permitting this agreement to take effect as quickly as possible was in the best interests of all parties and I am pleased that the Commission was able to allow this agreement to go into force without requiring additional information," commented Mario Cordero, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. "The parties and Commission staff worked hard to come to consensus on how to best balance the desire to create this additional option for filing container weight information that would satisfy guidance issued by the US Coast Guard, with the need to tailor the agreement to the specific circumstances at hand."

The Port Operations and Safety Discussion Agreement permits six operating port authorities located on the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (Georgia; Houston; Massachusetts; North Carolina; South Carolina; and Virginia) to take the weight of a container determined at a terminal gate and report it to an ocean carrier for the purposes of satisfying new amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Treaty mandating the reporting of the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of a container.

"Ensuring that containers are not overweight is a laudable goal that the Commission supports, but there is no reason to not be flexible, practical, and pragmatic in providing ways to comply with these new obligations," said Cordero. "I hope that other port authorities and terminal operators will be inspired to establish their own innovative processes to ease SOLAS VGM compliance."

The Federal Maritime Commission is responsible for regulating the Nation’s international ocean transportation for the benefit of exporters, importers, and the American consumer. The Commission’s mission is to foster a fair, efficient, and reliable international ocean transportation system while protecting the public from unfair and deceptive practices.