A group of container industry experts met earlier this month to examine whether BIMCO bills of lading may need to be amended due to the new SOLAS container weight verification requirements.
On 1 July 2016, new rules came into force requiring shippers to provide the verified gross mass (VGM) of containers. This information has to be submitted to the carrier and terminal sufficiently in advance so it can be used to prepare the stowage plan. Carriers will be in breach of SOLAS if they load a container whose weight has not been verified. While SOLAS requires the VGM to be included in a non-specified “shipping document”, BIMCO feels that is natural to begin by looking at the bills of lading used in the container trade, such as CONLINEBILL.
The practicalities of shippers submitting the VGM to carriers does not seem to cause any problems as this is done mainly electronically; either directly in an online booking system or via email. There is also certified weighing equipment in place in many ports around the world.
The focus of the expert group’s work will be on the consequences of a container arriving at a terminal without a VGM. In such situations, there may be costs for weighing, re-packing, administration for amending documents, demurrage, delayed or cancelled shipments, storage and the possible return of containers. In practice, it is likely that the terminal will charge the carrier for any costs it might incur. The carrier will then have to claim reimbursement from the shipper. Work has begun on a draft clause to allocate responsibility for such costs. The expert group will meet again on 31 January 2017 to continue the discussions.
Photo: Erwann Merrien, Head of Legal and Insurance - General Counsel at Marfret, heads the BIMCO expert group on VGM.