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Containers being unloaded at the Batangas port. Photo courtesy of Asian Terminals Inc.

Containers being unloaded at the Batangas port. Photo courtesy of Asian Terminals Inc.

Philippine port authorities have finally published rules that will implement the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) mandatory requirement for submission of the verified gross mass (VGM).

Starting July 1, the amendment to SOLAS Chapter IV, Part A, Regulation 2 requires a shipper to verify and indicate to the carrier or port operator the VGM of a packed container before it is loaded onto the vessel. No container will be loaded onto a vessel without a VGM.

READ: IMO gives 3-month leeway in implementation of VGM

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), which has jurisdiction over majority of the country’s ports, published on June 16 Administrative Order (AO) 04-2016 containing the supplemental policy on mandatory weighing of containers and roll-on/roll (RoRo) vehicles. The guidelines take effect 15 calendar days after publication or on July 1.

Cebu Port Authority (CPA), which oversees all ports in the province of Cebu, also released its own guidelines under AO No. 01-2016 dated June 10, effective July 1.

Issuing its own set of rules soon are Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which has jurisdiction over Subic port, and Phividec Industrial Authority (PIA), overseer of the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

Under PPA’s AO 04-2016, PPA affirmed all weighbridge operators—terminal operators, cargo handling operators, and independent weighbridge operators—inside the port are the official sources of information for the VGM of packed containers.

PPA described a packed container as a container loaded, stuffed, or filled with liquids, gases, solids, packages and cargo items, including packets, dunnage, and other packing and securing materials. Classified as containers are tank containers, flat racks, bulk containers, and others, PPA said.

It defined gross mass as the combined mass of a container’s tare weight and the weight of all the packages and cargo items, including pallets, dunnage, and other packing and securing materials packed into the container.

In view of the SOLAS policy, PPA said all authorized weighbridge operators shall weigh each packed and sealed container individually regardless of size, whether full container load (FCL) or less than container load (LCL), and regardless of the number of shippers with shipments loaded inside the container.

“The terminal operator shall supply the VGM information for each container to the carrier via EDI (electronic data interchange) or other electronic means,” PPA said.

If more than one container is mounted on a chassis, for example two 20-footers, each container shall be weighed separately, the authority noted.

All transhipped containers, particularly in view of Republic Act No. 10668 or the Foreign Ships Co-loading Act, shall not require any further weighing after the first port of origin or loading, unless the container had been stripped or re-stuffed.

If a transhipped container exits a port and is transported to another port (e.g. North Harbor to MICT or South Harbor), it shall be weighed again, PPA said.

The port authority noted that SOLAS Regulation VI/5 requires that a container should not be loaded to more than the maximum gross mass indicated on the Safety Approval Plate under the International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC), as amended.

As such, PPA said the terminal operator shall not load an overloaded container. It said the container is considered overloaded if the gross mass exceeds the maximum allowable weight embossed on the face plate of the container including the tare weight of the container.

“If the face plate is no longer readable, the terminal operator shall refer to the ISO standards for maximum weight of containers according to size,” PPA noted.

“Any action regarding an overloaded container shall be the result of a business decision between the shipper and the carrier, and handling thereof should be subject to the rules and regulations of the authority,” it said.

The port authority said all existing issuances, particularly PPA Memorandum Circular No. 23-2009 and PPA Administrative Order NO. 02-2012, shall continue to be in force.

Cebu Port

Meanwhile, CPA said AO 01-2016 covers all packed containers for export loaded onto ships at the CIP and all ships that carry containers for export whether or not docked at the Cebu International Port (CIP) but in ports located within the territorial jurisdiction of the authority.

CPA said the responsibility for obtaining and documenting the VGM of a packed container lies with the shipper.

“A container packed with packages and cargo items should not be loaded onto a ship or his representatives and the CHSP (cargo-handling service provider) have been provided with, in advance of vessel loading, the actual verified gross mass of the container,” the order said.

CPA said the VGM of the packed container shall be determined by the shipper through weighing (after it is packed and sealed), or calculating (packages and cargo items may be individually packed and weighed and added to the tare of the container).

The VGM shall then be communicated by the shipper to the shipping line “in a shipping document duly signed by the shipper or his/her/its authorized representative.”

The shipper-declared VGM shall then be submitted by the shipping line to the CHSP servicing foreign cargoes at the CIP in advance of ship loading. Otherwise, packed containers for export without a declared VGM duly submitted shall be refused gate-in or entrance to CIP.

Upon delivery of the shipper’s packed outbound container to CIP for receiving/gate-in, the same shall undergo mandatory weighing in accordance with AO No. 01-2008, which provides the policy for mandatory weighing of loaded outbound foreign container vans, by the truck scale facility of the CHSP authorized by CPA.

“Additionally, the weighing of the subject container shall also be used in validating the shipper-declared VGM to the said CHSP in accordance with Section 7 hereof,” the AO said.

In case there is inconsistency/discrepancy between the shipper-declared VGM and the VGM as weighed by the CHSP, the latter shall prevail, CPA said. After validation of a container’s declared VGM by the CHSP, CPA said the validated VGM shall be considered the final VGM of the subject container to be used for stowage purposes by the shipping lines and the CHSP.

“Thus, the validated VGM shall be made available by the CHSP to the shipping lines,” it said.

However, when the declared VGM differs with the validated VGM beyond the tolerable margin of error prescribed by CPA, the amendment of the appropriate shipping document by the shipper may be required by the carrier to effect the correction of the declared VGM in accordance with the procedures established by them.

Under Section 10 of AO 01-2016, the tolerable margin of error between the declared VGM and the verified VGM is plus or minus one ton.

The validated VGM of the container shall visually appear on an all-weather heavy-duty sticker on the container duly signed by the shipper or the authorized representative.

The cost of weighing the packed container for VGM validation, including the cost of the sticker to be provided by authorized weighing facilities shall be on the shipper’s account, CPA noted.

It added that the CPA general manager shall issue supplementary guidelines as may be necessary for the effective implementation of the VGM policy.

Persons or entities who have been issued permit/accreditation by CPA but violated AO 01-2016 will be penalized with suspension or revocation of permit/accreditation, without need of judicial proceedings, after due notice and hearing.

Subic port

A PortCalls source from SBMA said the draft policy to implement the SOLAS amendment will be presented to SBMA’s Board this week and to stakeholders the week after. The authority targets to issue the final rule before July 1.

The source said the draft policy stipulates that port operator Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation will serve as the verifier of the exporters’ containers vis-a-vis the declared weight. Any weight discrepancies will have to be corrected before it gets loaded onto container ships.

The source noted that teething problems during the initial implementation of the VGM policy is unavoidable, but that SBMA’s policy will be subject to changes as the port goes through implementation.

Phividec in Cagayan de Oro

In an email to PortCalls, PIA Port Management Department acting manager Efledo Resma said the authority, together with MCT terminal operator Mindanao International Container Terminal Services, Inc. have conducted on June 9 a meeting with  stakeholders, international shipping lines, shippers/exporters, logistics supply chain and all other clients about the VGM.

PIA’s draft rules are subject to approval of the PIA Board. Resma said they hope to issue the final guidelines by the fourth week of June. – Roumina Pablo

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