February 11, 2016

FMC, Coast Guard to meet Feb. 18 to hear industry concerns over container-weight amendment

Move comes day after agricultural, forest-products lobby urges U.S. to delay rule's implementation.

By DC Velocity Staff

The Federal Maritime Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard will convene a special meeting Feb. 18 to hear industry concerns over an amendment to an international maritime treaty requiring shippers to verify the total weight of a loaded container before it is loaded aboard a vessel, FMC said yesterday.

The announcement comes a day after the lobby representing the nation's agricultural and forest products exporters called on the U.S. government to delay the amendment's implementation, set to take effect July 1, until the Coast Guard determines that the measure would not harm U.S. commerce and that the nation's top 15 trading partners have also implemented the practice.

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition said it is not possible for U.S. shippers to verify in writing the weight of containers that they don't own or control. The group warned the amendment could disrupt the maritime supply chain if terminal operators are required to stop a container from being loaded, or evict it from the facility, if the box isn't accompanied by a shipper-signed document verifying its "gross mass."

The rule, developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), was incorporated in the Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS) convention. It holds the force of law in the IMO's 171 member countries.

The amendment was put into effect amid concerns that vessels could be damaged or sunk by the mass of illegally overweight containers. A shipper and terminal operator could be subject to significant liability if a ship is damaged and an unverifiable container is determined to be the cause.

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