India finalizes SOLAS guidelines, changes tolerance limit

India finalizes SOLAS guidelines, changes tolerance limit

SOLAS verified gross mass VGM IMO container weights

India shippers will have more leeway on the tolerance level of variation for container weights under the International Maritime Organization’s SOLAS regulation that goes into effect July 1, but terminals will not be able to provide weighing services to generate verified gross mass data within the country’s ports.

Sources told that the Directorate General of Shipping at a public hearing May 4 reset the maximum variance between the VGM of a container declared by a shipper and its actual weight obtained from a terminal operator at plus or minus 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds), compared with a previously recommended threshold of 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds).

Sources also said that the directorate, a Ministry of Shipping arm, did not alter or modify most of its other draft guidelines that were released earlier for public comments. The maritime administrator concluded that all weighing activities be carried out off-site in order to alleviate port congestion and that containers that show up at terminal gates must be accompanied by a VGM, which will need to be signed by the shipper or their authorized third party.

Though private terminal operators at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust aggressively pushed for the inclusion of a provision allowing them to offer in-terminal container weighing services, the maritime authority did not accede to that request. During the public session, the authority clarified that under the SOLAS convention, the shipper is responsible for generating the VGM and as such, it is not in a position to recommend a weighing option in the final guidelines to be issued.

According to local sources, the final ordinance will not specify the penalties that non-compliant shippers can face.

At the end of consultations, the directorate and other stakeholders voted to go ahead with the release of SOLAS guidelines for implementation at Indian ports. The agency's final ordinance is expected in the next few days.

In its draft guidelines, the directorate said Indian shippers will be free to use either of the two weighing procedures, such as method 1, which involves weighing the laden container in its entirety, and method 2, which allows the shipper to weigh the goods, packaging and securing materials separately and add those weights to the tare weight of the container.

Terminals at JNPT, which loads the majority of the containerized freight passing via India’s major public ports, also told earlier that they are fully geared up to meet the new IMO regulation.

In response to a query, APM Terminals-operated Gateway Terminals India said it won’t be providing weighing services at the terminal as the shipper or shipping line will be responsible for declaring the VGM in cargo gate-in documents (Form-13/Form-11) filed electronically with the terminal. “We will record the weights of containers received at the yard for exports. If there is a variation, then a charge for change in weights will be levied as per our scale of rates,” the company said.