Are you ready for SOLAS?

New regulations for international exporters from July 2016

Posted by Joanne Jones

Commodities Director, Warrant Group

  • T: 0151 955 0627
Tue 26th, Jan

In 1914 the first version of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea known as SOLAS, was created. Responding directly to the sinking of the Titanic, it featured regulations for the safety of merchant ships.

Regarded as the most important international treatise of its kind for the shipping sector, new regulations under SOLAS come into force on July 1st 2016 which legally require shippers to accurately submit the verified gross weight of a seaboard container.

With some container weights being incorrectly declared in recent years, the new data is expected to help ships accurately plan weight distribution to avoid overloading and, in worst case scenarios, vessels capsizing or running aground.

There been widespread concern however among exporters, freight forwarders and the logistics sector that the new requirements will cause considerable disruption to supply chains as well as additional costs.

The practicalities of meeting the new regulations can be managed in two ways.

For exporters of general bulk cargoes such as scrap metal and un-bagged grain which already have weighing procedures in place, existing documentation and audit trails should be sufficient to meet the new requirements.

Alternatively, for shippers which have audited procedures in place such as ISO, AEO, MCA or an ERP system, the requirements are a little more complicated and less familiar. The weight of the goods, the weight of the packing material as well as the tare weight of the container will need to be recorded separately and submitted.

Liability for meeting the new regulations will lie with the shipper named on the Bill of Lading documentation which could be the exporter or even the forwarder.

Some sections of the logistics sector have suggested that a five per cent tolerance over the accuracy of the submitted data would be acceptable however if all containers were loaded using the maximum tolerance, it could compromise safety.

Adapting existing working practises and using electronic data transfer would certainly help companies manage the new regulations which may prove not as difficult to implement as first anticipated.

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