Forwarders must not be complacent on SOLAS ‘grace’ period, warns BIFA

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is urging its members and the freight forwarding community not to be complacent about new rules concerning the reporting of the ‘verified gross mass’ (VGM) of every container.

BIFA’s message follows the recent IMO circular on VGM urging a policy of ‘practical and pragmatic' enforcement by authorities over the first three months after the new rules take effect on 1 July.

Robert Keen, director general of the trade association which represents UK freight forwarders, identifies that whilst there have been ongoing concerns regarding the application of the container weighing requirements, which has led to an IMO committee issuing a statement suggesting some leniency be applied after 1 July, international trade should not allow this grace period to shape its plans in regards to complying with the implementation of the new rules.

“BIFA continues to urge its members to talk to their customers and the shipping lines and ports they use to make sure that the containers they ship after 1 July are compliant with the new rules,” says Mr Keen

“The IMO circular advising administrations and port state control authorities to take a ‘practical and pragmatic approach’ in enforcing the new rules, for a period of three months immediately following 1 July 2016, should help ensure that containers that are loaded before that date, but transshipped on or after that date, reach their final port of discharge without a verified gross mass.

“It also provides some flexibility, helping all the stakeholders in containerised transport to refine procedures for documenting, communicating and sharing electronic verified gross mass data and going some way to allaying industry fears that the impending rules might trigger big delays at ports.

“With just weeks to the mandatory implementation of this revision of international law there are still a number of grey areas and are encouraging all our members to make sure that they are fully prepared and ready to meet their responsibilities.

“The IMO’s intent would appear to be that any party which has done its utmost to comply, may expect to be treated with understanding.  Those, who have done little or nothing, can expect to be penalised.”