July SOLAS Mandates: What You Need to Know
On July 1, 2016, a number of key ocean shipping mandates from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will go into effect. Most countries and ocean carriers participate in the IMO, and therefore have agreed to follow the requirements, which fall under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Act. These new mandates will bring about some challenges for shippers as they make the necessary operational changes to comply and properly report the weight of their ocean cargo.
Similar to airplane cargo, proper stowage and balance of freight on ocean container vessels is critical. Additionally, ocean carriers must consider harbor channel depths of the various ports of call on their schedule rotation to ensure no problems when arriving or departing an ocean container terminal. The IMO and participating members believe these mandates are essential to preventing incidents where hundreds of containers are lost overboard or a vessel is actually lost at sea due to structural integrity impacted by misdeclared cargo weights.
Just like when flying commercial airlines, reporting the true weight of seafaring cargo often comes with extra fees and restrictions, and some ocean shippers haven’t been fully complying. Confirming declared container weights or re-weighing containers at receiving terminals hasn’t been a priority with carriers in the past. The industry is more aware of these gaps now, and the IMO is taking steps to truly enforce the necessary weight restrictions with these new mandates.