Philippine ports are ready for the implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirement to mandatorily verify weight of packed containers from July 2016, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
PPA Port Operations Services Department division manager Rey Del Moro, Jr said even before the IMO requirement was approved, the port authority has released two similar memoranda: PPA Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 23-2009 and PPA Administrative Order (AO) No. 02-2012.
The IMO Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), as amended, requires that the gross mass of packed containers be verified before being stowed aboard a ship, as specified in Chapter VI, part A of the convention. This is to ensure safety of the ship, of workers both aboard ships and ashore, and of cargo, as well as of overall safety at sea.
In a presentation he delivered for PPA assistant general manager Raul Santos at the joint Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association, Inc.-PortCalls forum on the New Rules on Handling Dangerous Goods and other Policies Impacting Philippine Shippers, del Moro noted the shipper is responsible for obtaining and documenting the verified gross weight (VGW) of containers and submitting the information to the terminal operator and vessel operator for ship stowage planning.
PPA MC No. 23-2009 already prescribes the mandatory weighing of all outbound containers and roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vehicles for both foreign and domestic shipments. Here, the cargo-handling operator/terminal operator (CHO/TO) takes on the role of ensuring all containers and RORO vehicles are within the allowable/prescribed weights and safely handled at the port.
Those found overloaded are prohibited from boarding the vessel until corrective measures are done. Measures such as stripping, attendant special services, and ultimate withdrawal of these cargoes may be provided by the CHO/TO for the account of the cargo/vehicle owner. The CHO/TO is responsible for weighbridge operations within the port, while weighbridge service providers must secure permits to operate from PPA.
PPA AO No. 02-2012, on the other hand, provides guidelines on the operation of weighbridge facilities and services at PPA ports. Like MC 23-2009, this AO requires mandatory weighing of outbound containers and RORO vehicles, and prescribes the gross weight per container.
Del Moro noted that PPA’s memos are in fact, stricter than SOLAS’. While SOLAS gives the sole responsibility for verifying gross weight to the shipper, PPA hands the responsibility to the shipper or its representative (forwarder, customs broker, trucker) and to the CHO/TO.
He added that not all cargo owners have weighbridges in their warehouses and that there is currently no government-accredited provider of weighing services.
However, Del Moro said PPA will insist that weighing of containers be done at the terminal since there could be alterations during transit to the port.
Moreover, he said the SOLAS rule putting on the captain’s shoulders the discretion on whether to load an overloaded container on the vessel is consistent with the PPA issuances. This decision, Del Moro noted, also depends on the stowage plan of the vessel.
Asked what will prevail when the SOLAS requirement on VGW is imposed, Del Moro said international treaties and instrumentalities “are not legally binding and they still need legislation.”
“If there is an existing law domestically, I think the domestic law shall prevail,” he said, but added that there are only a few differences between SOLAS and PPA rules. Furthermore, there are amendatory clauses in the PPA memos that will enable the port authority to close differences with other laws.
Earlier, the Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) said its members have started preparations to comply with the SOLAS requirement.
According to AISL general manager Atty. Maximino Cruz, the SOLAS amendments to the VGM rule “is a welcome safety safeguard.”
The new policy also “relieves the vessel of any liability if the gross weight of the packed container is found to be erroneous,” he added. – Roumina Pablo
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