Fears of Disruption and Lack of Preparedness for SOLAS Container Weight Requirements

Is the ocean shipping industry ready for the of Safety of Life at Sea verified gross mass regulations?

Parsippany, NJDec. 2, 2015INTTRA, the world’s ocean shipping electronic marketplace, announced the results of a customer survey in which 410 respondents overwhelmingly expressed concerns about the readiness of the ocean shipping industry, and their own companies and customers for the implementation of Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) verified gross mass (VGM) regulations. The regulations stipulate that containers cannot be loaded onto ships until their weight is verified and certified. 

Only 30 percent of respondents said they expected that their company and/or their customers will be prepared for compliance when the regulations are implemented in July 2016; 48 percent said they have their doubts and 10 percent said no. Two-thirds of respondents, or 66 percent, said they expected either a moderate or major disruption in the industry. Respondents foresee the most disruption in the Asia-Pacific (42 percent), followed by Africa (22 percent).

As a neutral, central party in the ocean industry, INTTRA launched the eVGM Initiative to facilitate a smooth, collaborative transition to industry-wide VGM compliance through digital means. The initiative is bringing together experts from carriers and non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOCCs) to freight forwarders and shippers to terminal operators and port authorities to government regulators, and rail and trucking operators. To date, more than 100 industry participants are registered in the eVGM Forum, an online discussion group for shipping professionals. Several companies are actively engaged in the initiative, including APL, BDP International, CEVA, Damco, Hapag Lloyd, Hamburg Sud, Kuehne + Nagel, UASC and other INTTRA carriers.

The eVGM Initiative has two objectives:

  1. To state a preference for electronic submission through a digital-first approach to SOLAS VGM compliance that allows trading partners ample time for preparations.
  2. To support safety and efficiency by developing an industry community to foster agreement or consensus on a technology standard and standard business process for digital documentation of VGM submissions.

Participants in the initiative will not be required to work with any specific vendor to execute their compliance operations.  

“Some have said that SOLAS VGM could be to the ocean shipping industry what Y2K was to the broader business world,” said Inna Kuznetsova, president of INTTRA Marketplace. “These survey results are consistent with that, as they reflect concerns over potential disruption and lack of preparedness. We believe that coordinated action can facilitate a smooth transition. That is the basis of the eVGM Initiative.”

The world’s largest NVOCC, Kuehne + Nagel, expressed concerns that, unless global VGM communication standards and practices are adopted quickly, the VGM requirements might create confusion and chaos when implemented in June/July next year. Otto Schacht, Kuehne + Nagel’s global director of seafreight operations, therefore, fully supports INTTRA’s eVGM efforts by making the company’s resources available to the development of eVGM. For this system to work efficiently and reliably, shippers, freight intermediaries and ocean carriers have to work on solutions, which are practical and in full compliance of the VGM requirements.

BDP International recognizes the need for a more contemporary approach to reporting under SOLAS’ verified gross mass regulation and supports INTTRA’s eVGM initiative,” said BDP Vice President John Clark. “An e-commerce solution is necessary to minimize the impact of the reporting requirements, which otherwise would result in a slow and costly process,” Clark continued. “While the human element cannot be dis-intermediated, the efficiencies and effectiveness of electronic integration solutions have been proven time and again, and must be applied to eliminate dependency on an outdated document-based process. Such a solution will be best developed and executed only through a collaboration involving all of the relevant parties to ocean shipments including shippers, ocean carriers and international freight forwarders.

“BDP has a long and successful history in the development and implementation of electronic data messaging with ocean carriers and other information management partners, and is eminently qualified to enhance the eVGM Initiative. For more than a decade, we have integrated with INTTRA in electronic booking, shipping instructions and shipment status messaging, and worked with INTTRA and ocean carriers to improve industry standardization in those areas.”

Damco, a third-party logistics provider, endorses the importance of providing safety for every single person working in the supply chain. “In these early stages of translating the new SOLAS amendments into operational processes, Damco chooses to actively collaborate with INTTRA to ensure introduction of one global data format that meets all legal requirements while, at the same time, minimizing the impact to our customers’ supply chains,” said Simone Kraal, global ocean operations manager. She adds: “Damco is participating actively in developing an eVGM solution as envisioned by INTTRA, which will provide one global industry standard from shipper to carrier, helping our customers increase the ease of doing business.”

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