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Transport & Logistics

Is SOLAS the biggest fizzer of all time?

19 Aug 2016, by Informa Insights

INDUSTRY COMMENT: After so much hype in the lead up to the 1 July 2016 implementation, the fact that we have no form of compliance overseeing Verified Gross Mass (VGM) requirements is making a mockery of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) reforms.

Lloyds List Australia featured an article on 25 July whereby a freight forwarder was charged $859 after making a typo-error on a pre-receival advice Verified Gross Mass (VGM) declaration for a box sent to DP World Australia at West Swanson Dock.

Instead of displaying the weight at 18,000 kg the VGM read 1,800kg.

This issue certainly touched a nerve generating a mix of industry views with one respondent suggesting that the forwarder should buy a lottery ticket, accept the stevedore fee and be grateful that they avoided a $9,000 penalty from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

Whilst all of the responses made for interesting reading, from a Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) perspective we are alarmed that a fundamental point was missed – putting aside the typo in this example, what are the chances the weight of goods and container equated to exactly 18,000 kg?

This still sounds like an estimate and unlikely the that either of the approved methods were  used to obtain an accurate weight – where is AMSA and why aren’t they cracking down on this behaviour?

An accurate VGM requirement is required as a part of the SOLAS global requirements to ensure that shipping lines have accurate container weight data to plan stowage and ensure safety of their vessels.

Whilst this is a very important requirement, it is evident in the early days post 1 July 2016 that APSA is taking a “hands-off” approach without any level of compliance activity underpinning the new statutory provisions.

As a result, those exporters and logistics service providers meeting the new requirements are facing extra costs as against those that simply round up estimates and report figures like 18,000 kg!

We have seen the NSW regulators place the onus on stevedores to weigh laden vehicles leaving terminals with import containers to ensure our roads are safe. It remains a mystery why AMSA did not follow this precedent and put the onus on stevedores to also perform some form of weighing check and report discrepancies as against reported VGM data.

We also understand that some of the commercial weighing providers also have the ability to supply real time data feeds to AMSA which would also go a long way of satisfying a strong compliance culture.

We need answers to all these questions.

I will be facilitating day 2 of the upcoming AusIntermodal event and chairing a panel discussion examining early learnings of the container weighing regulations.

As a part of the panel we are fortunate to have Tony Smith, Principal Advisor, AMSA and a legal perspective provided by Stephen Thompson, Partner, Colin, Biggers & Paisley.

From an industry perspective we will receive insights from Stuart McFarlane, Business Affairs Manager, Australian Federation of International Forwarders (AFIF) and Neil Zalai, Paul - FTA founder director Oct 2012 - media - credit FTA (Small)Chambers, Director, Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA).

Here is your opportunity to participate in an open forum and to contribute to the evolution of this important reform.

NOTE: AusIntermodal will be held 8 – 9 September 2016 (Pullman Brisbane King George Square).

This article was originally published on Paul Zalai’s blog for Lloyds List Australia. Paul is an Advocate for the Australian Freight and Trade sectors and Director of the Freight and Trade Alliance (FTA). You can read the original article here


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