The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PhilExport) is joining the call for the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to be designated as the government agency to implement and issue guidelines on the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) policy that will govern the verification of the gross weight of containers and that will take effect in July.
PhilExport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, in a letter to Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, stressed it is urgent the department determines the competent authority or implementing agency that will take the lead in preparing, issuing, and enforcing the guidelines on carrying out the new global policy. PPA is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications.
On July 1 this year, amendments to Chapter VI Part A Regulation 2 of the IMO Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention) will take effect, requiring the shipper of a packed container to certify the verified gross mass (VGM) of a container and indicate this to the carrier or port operator before the box is loaded onto a vessel. If the VGM is not provided, then the container will not be loaded onto the vessel.
The SOLAS policy requires a competent government authority to interpret the legislation and issue guidelines to suit the local scenario.
The Philippines has yet to choose its competent government authority, but the Association of International Shipping Lines has been urging PPA to take the lead.
Ortiz-Luis said PPA should be designated for two reasons. One is that PPA serves as the main authority in the national port system, per Presidential Decree No. 505 (1974), as amended by PD 875.
“Although it is not the only government authority, it handles 70% of all cargoes that come in and out of the ports,” Ortiz-Luis said.
Second, PPA has already issued two memorandum circulars and one administrative order in the past that form part of the existing regulations closely related to the SOLAS amendments.
Ortiz-Luis also noted that in a presentation last March 11 in a forum, PPA Operations and Services Department manager Roberto Aquino said that the “PPA regulations are currently under review for amendment or for new issuance with specific reference to the SOLAS amendment.”
Ortiz-Luis said PhilExport deems that the lack of guidelines will be problematic to stakeholders, including importers, shipping lines, and port operators, as the amendments remain open for interpretation.
“Unless released as soon as possible, shippers may not have ample time to integrate VGW (verified gross weight) in their shipment cycle. This may ultimately cause disruption in the flow of goods in the supply chain,” Ortiz-Luis said.
The group also identified some technical issues critical to the formulation of the comprehensive guidelines on VGM.
These are accreditation guidelines and procedures for third-party weighing service providers; calibration of procedures, facilities and location of third-party weighing service providers; number of providers that will be accredited; standard format to communicate the VGM; tolerable margin of error; cut-off time for submission; dealing with non-compliance; validation of submitted VGW; and penalties for non-compliance.
Ortiz-Luis said the appointment of the competent government authority and issuance of guidelines “will help prepare all stakeholders involved and ensure that the operation in the ports will not be adversely affected by this regulation come July 1.” – Roumina Pablo
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