SOLAS – New, Global, Maritime Regulation. Are you ready?

On 1st July 2016, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulation called SOLAS will become mandatory on a global scale and potentially cause a significant disruption to all international container sea freight. Are you and your supply chain ready to avoid delays in YOUR supply chain?

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), under the International Maritime Organization (UN), has existed since 1st November 1974.

Why is this regulation suddenly interesting? Well, in less than 3 months it will be compulsory to comply with this regulation globally!

What is it about? The regulation makes it mandatory to provide a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for all shipments BEFORE it is loaded. Without VGM, the cargo cannot load and delays will occur in the supply chain.

It is already common practice to state the gross cargo weight on the shipping documents.

How is VGM different? The shipper reports the gross cargo weight without any clear guidelines on how the weight is calculated and the record is rarely checked. This has led to many shippers not reporting accurate weigh figures.

With VGM, you need to stipulate the total weight of container, packaging and cargo. In itself this is not a major change; however, guidelines will now be in place on how to calculate this weight. If there was one global standard for this, we probably would not hear much about the change; however, each country can decide on their own guidelines thus adding significant complexity to a multi-national operation.

Despite less than 90 days to implementation, many shippers cannot fully prepare, as several major countries have still not stipulated what the local guidelines will be. Other countries, e.g. the UK and The Netherlands have provided guidelines.

In some places the shippers can verify themselves assuming they are ISO (or equivalent) certified. In other countries, it will require third party verification – at an additional cost.

Do you need to care about this if you only receive cargo? YES. The new guidelines might require additional time from when the cargo is produced until it can be loaded, the supply chain might encounter additional costs, etc. If your shippers are not on top of this, then it is YOUR cargo, which will be delayed!

If you are a shipper, I would recommend you to contact customs in each of your export markets to get the latest status in each one. If you are a consignee, I would recommend that you contact your most critical shippers to understand how prepared they are to avoid delays in your cargo.

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