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PPA enforces new rules on mandatory weighing of export cargo

  • Philippine Ports Authority Administrative Order No. 02-2021 provides revised guidelines on mandatory weighing of export containers effective June 16
  • The order delineates responsibility of PPA, terminal operators, cargo-handling operators, weighbridge operators, shipping lines, exporters, and shippers when it comes to compliance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea verified gross mass (VGM) requirements
  • Under AO 02-2021, obtaining and documenting the VGM of a packed container becomes the responsibility of the shipper
  • Previously, the responsibility lay with the terminal operator, which had to transmit the VGM to carriers

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has issued revised guidelines on the mandatory weighing of export containers, making shippers squarely responsible for obtaining and documenting the verified gross mass (VGM) of their packed containers.

In the past, terminal operators were responsible for transmitting the VGM to shipping lines.

Effective June 16, PPA Administrative Order (AO) 02-2021 aims to establish a common approach to implementing and enforcing the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) verified gross mass (VGM) Chapter VI Part A requirement, which centers on the verification of the gross mass of packed containers for exports.

Amendments to the SOLAS VGM Chapter VI Part A require a shipper to indicate to the carrier or port operator the VGM of a packed container before it is loaded onto the vessel. The amendment was implemented globally from July 1, 2016 and in the Philippines, PPA in the same year issued AO 04-2016 to implement the policy.

READ: PH port authorities issue guidelines on verified gross mass

AO 02-2021 repeals AO 04-2016, which provided the supplemental policy on mandatory weighing of containers and roll-on/roll-off vehicles, as well as AO 05-2016, which corrected an erratum in AO 04-2016.

AO 02-2021 prescribes and delineates the responsibility of PPA, terminal operators, cargo-handling operators, weighbridge operators, shipping lines, exporters, and shippers when it comes to compliance with SOLAS requirements.

AO 02-2021 covers all export containers passing through government ports under the administrative jurisdiction of PPA. The Cebu Port Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and Phividec Industrial Authority have their own guidelines for ports under their jurisdiction.

PPA assistant general manager for operations Hector Miole told PortCalls in a text message that under AO 02-2021, it will be “primarily the shipper’s responsibility to submit the VGM declaration to the carrier who passes the information to the terminal operator.”

This differs from AO 04-2016, which placed on terminal operators the responsibility to transmit the VGM to the carriers.

Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) general manager Atty. Maximino Cruz told PortCalls in an email that “unfortunately, this VGM requirement was not strictly enforced, which could be due to the dearth of specific operational details and the absence of a monitoring mechanism that would have, at least, ensured substantial compliance.”

He said this was why AO 04-2016 had to be revisited and a public consultation with stakeholders had to be held.

Clearer, more definitive provisions

“The issuance of AO No. 02-2021 is the product of this consultation. Unlike AO No.04-2016, the new AO is more definitive in stating that the responsibility for obtaining and documenting the VGM of a packed container lies with the shipper. Clearer provisions on technical details are now being provided under AO No.02-2021. Likewise, monitoring and reportorial requirements have become part of the new AO,” Cruz explained.

With the scheduled implementation of AO 02-2021 on June 16, Cruz said shipping lines have to go through “another vigorous round of information campaign to make sure that compliance is achieved.”

“There will surely be changes in the existing process which will require closer collaboration between shipping lines and shippers on how to effectively and efficiently implement the provisions of the new AO,” he added.

Call for suspension

The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) early this year called for suspension of the proposed mandatory weighing of export containers, questioning whether the policy could be implemented properly amid the pandemic and other urgent issues facing exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

READ: Exporters seek deferment of proposed export container weighing

While PHILEXPORT backed the mandatory weighing of export containers as it is consistent with principles of the SOLAS VGM policy, it said concerns still had to be resolved before implementation, such as the costs and delays the mandatory weighing could entail.

The Export Development Council (EDC) described the proposed mandatory weighing of export containers as a “redundant and costly process” since certified operators are already weighing the containers at the port for a fee. EDC said the new policy would be an additional cost burden for shippers (especially MSMEs), who would be required to invest in VGM calibrated/certified equipment in order to comply.

Two verification methods

AO 02-2021 said SOLAS regulations require the shipper to verify the gross mass of packed containers using Method No. 1 (weighing) or Method No. 2 (calculating), and to communicate the VGM in a shipping document.

Method 1 is weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment. Method 2 is calculating the sum of the single masses, which is the mass of cargo items plus all packages (pallets, dunnage, securing material packed in the container) plus container tare weight as certified and approved by the national authorized body, which in this case is PPA.

Under Method 1, the terminal representatives will weigh each packed and sealed container individually regardless of size, whether it’s a full container load or less than container load, and regardless of the number of shippers with shipments loaded inside the container.

Under Method 2, the shipper, or its assigned third party, must weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage, and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses using a certified and approved method as required by the state where the container is packed.

Only the method used for weighing the container’s contents under Method 2 is subject to certification and approval as determined by the competent authority of the Philippines in which the packing and sealing of the container was completed.  The scale used for weighing has to be calibrated/certified in accordance with Philippine rules and regulations.

The shipper of a container should ensure the VGM is stated in the shipping document and contains the required details. The information must be submitted to the master of the vessel or his/her representative, and to the terminal representative sufficiently in advance, as required by the master of the vessel or his/her representative, to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan.

The shipper or its representative should make available the VGM information of each container to the carrier via electronic data interchange or other electronic means like the Terminal Appointment Booking System and container gate-in/gate-out report message (CODECO).

If the shipping document does not provide the VGM and the master or his/her representative and the terminal representative have not obtained the VGM of the packed container, the container will not be loaded on to the ship.

If more than one container is mounted on a chassis, each container will be weighed separately.

The terminal representatives will verify the VGM declaration by weighing at terminal (in gate or by other appropriate and certified weighing instrument).

This, however, does not supersede the responsibility of the shipper to declare the VGM in the pre-advice, but as an official source of information for the VGM of packed containers in case no VGM was provided by the shipper.

Resolving discrepancies

Any discrepancy between a packed container’s gross mass declared prior to the verification of its gross mass and its VGM should be resolved by using the VGM.

Any discrepancy between the VGM of a packed container obtained prior to the container’s delivery to the port terminal facility and the VGM of that container obtained by the port facility’s weighing of the container should be resolved by using the latter VGM obtained by the port terminal facility.

Any weight discrepancy above or below 1,500 kilograms (kg) will be deemed misdeclared and shut-out charges prescribed under PPA regulations by way of penalty will be imposed on the shipper in addition to the weighing fee.

If the actual weight of the container as declared in the shipping document and provided to the shipping line is within the 1,500 kg threshold, no weighing fee will be imposed.

For ports without existing PPA-approved shut-out charge, the terminal representatives should apply with PPA for the applicable shut-out fees, which will be the basis for the imposition of penalty.

Any action regarding a misdeclared container will be the result of a business decision between the shipper and the shipping line, provided that the shipping line accepts the correct measured weight as the shipper’s new declaration prior to loading. Provided further that the actual gross mass does not exceed the allowable maximum gross mass of the container indicated in the International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) Plate.

AO 02-2021 said PPA reserves the right to report to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) a record of any weight underdeclaration considered as violation of pertinent LTO rules and regulations.

The terminal representatives should not load onto the vessel an overloaded container. A container is considered overloaded if the gross mass exceeds the maximum allowable weight embossed on the CSC plate of the container including the tare weight of the container. If the CSC plate is no longer readable, the terminal representatives should refer to the ISO standards for maximum weights of containers according to size.

All transshipped containers, particularly in view of Republic Act No. 10668 or the Foreign Ships Co-loading Act, will not require any further weighing after the first port of origin or loading, unless the container has been stripped and re-stuffed. If a transshipped container exits a port and is transported to another port, it will be weighed again. – Roumina Pablo

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