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Announcements About Gate Weights Are Encouraging Sign for Smooth VGM Implementation

June 29, 2016

Washington, June 29, 2016—Steps taken by a variety of ocean carriers, in cooperation with terminal operating companies, are encouraging signs that a new Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) amendment mandating verified declarations of container weights is being implemented with an eye toward flexibility, practicality, and pragmatism said Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero.

Cordero noted that in recent days at least four ocean carriers have published customer advisories stating that each will accept weights determined by scales at marine terminals as suitable for the purposes of reporting the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of a container.

"I commend those working to make SOLAS VGM compliance as easy as possible for American export shippers to achieve," said Cordero. "Clearly some carriers serving the United States are working with their terminal partners to find sensible solutions to these new container weighing requirements and I appreciate their leadership. I am confident that other shipping lines will follow the example that has been set in the last few days."

The carrier advisory statements follow quickly on two key developments that took place recently. Earlier in the month, the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA) announced it supported the use of terminal scales to obtain container weights. Then on Friday, June 24th, the Federal Maritime Commission allowed the "Port Operations and Safety Discussion Agreement" (FMC Agreement No. 201233), which was filed on behalf of OCEMA, to become effective after an expedited review. This agreement cleared the way for OCEMA members to embrace the "equivalency" language contained in a U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Information Bulletin clarifying that using scales on marine terminals is acceptable for the purpose of determining VGM.

"It is vital that when carriers adopt a gate weight option that they communicate this news quickly and clearly to their customers," urged Cordero. "At this point, particularly if all the parties are communicating with each other, there is really no reason why on July 1st export cargo cannot and should not flow through a terminal gate and be loaded aboard a vessel."