An MSC circular on Advice to Administrations, port State control authorities, companies, port terminals and masters regarding the SOLAS requirements for verified gross mass of packed containers has been agreed by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), following discussion on the pending entry into force of the requirements in SOLAS regulations VI/2.4 to VI/2/6 on the verification of the gross mass of packed containers on 1 July 2016.
Concerns were noted with regards to the application of the requirements to a container which was loaded before 1 July 2016 and then transhipped. The Committee, meeting for its 96th session (11-20 May), also noted delegations’ comments that, in the first few months after 1 July 2016, some leeway should be provided in order for any problems resulting from software updates, required for the electronic collection and transmittal of verified gross mass data, to be rectified without causing delays to containers being loaded.
In this context, the MSC agreed that while there should be no delay in the implementation of the SOLAS requirements, it would be beneficial if Administrations and port State control authorities could take a “practical and pragmatic approach” when enforcing them, for a period of three months immediately following 1 July 2016. This would help ensure that containers that are loaded before 1 July 2016, but transhipped on or after 1 July 2016, reach their final port of discharge without a verified gross mass and it would provide flexibility, for three months immediately after 1 July 2016, to all the stakeholders in containerized transport to refine, if necessary, procedures (e.g. updated software) for documenting, communicating and sharing electronic verified gross mass data.
Notwithstanding the above, the MSC emphasized that the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers, is not limited to the provision and use of VGM information and is also covered by a number of SOLAS regulations, including SOLAS regulations VI/2.1, VI/2.2 and VI/2.3, and other IMO instruments, amongst others.