Indian shippers and stakeholders have until the end of March 2017 to be fully compliant with the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, verified gross mass mandate following a further four-month grace period extension announced by the Directorate General of Shipping on Thursday.
The previous deadline for full SOLAS compliance was Nov. 30.
“Considering that the implementation of the said guidelines is still in its initial stages and remote locations require additional time for gearing up to implement the same, it is necessary that a practical and pragmatic approach in the matter be extended for a further period, so that the export trade of India continues without hindrance,” the directorate said in a public note.
The maritime authority said terminals would continue to accept VGM data supplied by shippers in hard copy form during the extended period, and that it would not lengthen the grace time beyond March 31, by which date electronic data transmission should be operational.
The authority also issued stern warnings to transportation intermediaries that continue to charge shippers additional fees for VGM services, especially on less-than-container loads.
“This office is of the considered view that these amendments to the SOLAS Convention pertaining to safety aspects should not be unfairly and unreasonably leveraged by intermediaries between shippers and ships to impose an additional burden/cost on the exporters of cargo from India, hindering the export trade of India by way of incremental transaction costs,” the notice said. “This office hereby reiterates that the stated additional exorbitant charges by any intermediaries are not mandated and may undermine free trade practices.”
The directorate previously reprimanded private terminals at major ports, including Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, for levying weight verification charges on containers that had a shipper-supplied VGM. DP World Cochin also was forced to lift a VGM compliance survey charge of Rs. 125 (about $2) per 20-foot-equivalent unit after shippers petitioned the local court.
Citing additional investments in equipment and personnel, the Indian Private Ports and Terminals Association, or IPPTA, had lobbied the directorate during stakeholder consultations to allow terminals to provide VGM services on-site for a fee, but to no avail.