My first post so be gentle! I have been quite heavily involved in looking at physical solutions for the updated SOLAS legislation over the past six months or so. We are an international freight forwarder with offices in the UK, US, Ireland, India and Hong Kong, so it has been very interesting to see the varying opinions globally.
In the UK we have been lucky in that our international trade body (BIFA) have been well on top of this since it was approved in 2014 and have held many seminars, etc., more recently. When I initially contacted our other offices, no-one had heard of it!
I’ll try and stay out of the whole US/SOLAS debate as what I have read has not come straight from the horses mouth so to speak. Let’s be frank, no-one is truly ready for the new legislation, but it has been on the table since 2014 so my take on the whole thing is it’s here, let’s get on with it.
My main concern is that this seems to have not been promoted to the export shipping industry. We sent out some notices a while back to our client base and very few had heard of it. Secondly, although forwarders have in the main been keeping up to speed, carriers and ports/terminals seems to have had their heads in the sand. In fact, we are still waiting to hear what action most, if not all of them will be taking with regard to this.
Initially, Ports were very clear that they did not want to get involved themselves with weighing containers. This was a concern because there are not a great deal of weighbridges in the UK - certainly not enough to handle a sudden influx of containers. However, one stepped up to the plate and said they would do this, and would you know, the rest are slowly following suit. For them it is an ongoing revenue stream that shippers will unfortunately have to foot the bill for.
As to the practicalities, as mentioned, weighbridges are not a workable option. I see the only real option worldwide as being the lifting equipment at the terminals being upgraded/calibrated to handle this. However, as we know, many ports will simply not be able to do this. For our consolidated services we are making a large investment in upgrading our weighing/dimension measuring systems to both cover this and future proof what we do going forward.
Let’s look at this rationally. This is about safety at sea. Not just overweight containers but underweight. So far the whole area of monitoring/penalties has been a bit of a grey one with no one really wanting to put anything in black and white. Rest assured though, the next time a stack of containers fall or a vessel goes down, you can imagine the lawsuits involved should the relevant authorities find that some of the verified gross masses involved are not accurate. Things will suddenly then get serious.
All the best,