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Freight forwarders are likely to take a central role in the verification of container weights when new regulations covering ocean freight transport come into force next year.

The recent amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) regulations, which mean shippers must verify the declared weight of a container and its contents, are due to become law on 1 July 2016.

However, yesterday leading supply chain and maritime insurer TT Club said much of the onus for weight verification would likely fall upon the freight forwarders and 3PLs that arrange and book container shipments on behalf of shippers.

“The complex nature of logistics means that the term ‘shipper’ may encompass a range of people involved in the contracting, packing and transporting of cargo,” the TT Club said in a statement.

“However, as stated in the WSC guidance, the key commercial relationship in question is with the person whose name is placed on the ocean carrier’s bill of lading. Thus, in many cases, the responsibility for actual ‘verified’ declaration will rest with a freight forwarder, logistics operator or NVOC.

“This means that often reliance will have to be placed on others to have adequate certified methods to provide verified gross mass – particularly for consolidation business. Of course, many suppliers of homogenous shipments will already have advanced systems, which merely require some form of national certification,” it added.

Robert Windsor, policy and compliance manager at the British International Freight Association (Bifa), who has been closely involved with drawing up the guidance for the UK freight community published by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), told The Loadstar that freight forwarders organising groupage and less-than-container load shipments would be especially affected, as they would effectively become the shipper.

However, he added, the MCA had agreed with Bifa to adopt the “handshake principle” for forwarders, especially with regular shippers that already operate under AEO or other ‘known shipper’ programmes.

Indeed, the small print in the MCA guidance confirms that forwarders working for shippers, either in consolidating several loads into one container or booking full container loads on their behalf, can accept a shippers’ verification without having to verify it themselves.

“Where cargo submitted and correctly marked is tendered by one UK-verified weigher to another for final loading, it will not need to be re-weighed prior to packing into the container – although responsibility for providing the accurate verified gross mass remains with the shipper named on the bill of lading,” it says.

The full MCA guidance can be found here, since the Solas amendments, voted into law by the UN’s International Maritime Organization “place responsibility on national administrations to implement appropriate standards for calibration and ways of certifying”, according to the TT Club.

Verification can either be done through actual weighing or by providing a calculation of the weight of the cargo plus the tare weight of the container. Should the verification not be available to both vessel master and a terminal representative, the container should not be loaded onto the vessel.

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