Only 30 percent of shippers and forwarders surveyed by Inttra say they and their customers will be prepared for the July 1 start of new global regulations requiring containers to be weighed before they’re loaded onto ships.
“We are six months away from the change taking place and a majority of survey participants said they had their doubts or that their company or customers would not be prepared,” Inna Kuznetsova, president of Inttra Marketplace, told JOC.com.
Forty-eight percent of the 410 Inttra customers who responded to the survey said they “have their doubts” about whether they or their customer will be ready. Another 10 percent said they won’t be ready.
Sixty-six percent said they expect the new rules to produce moderate or major disruptions. Inttra’s customers include more than 50 carriers and 110,000 shippers and forwarders. The company provides electronic booking and shipping instructions for more than one-fourth of all container movements.
The new container-weighing requirement adopted by the International Maritime Organization as amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea are aimed at misstatement of container weights, which can create deadly hazards aboard ship, in ports, and on highways.
Compliance with the new rules will require companies to alter business practices, Kuznetsova said.
For example, the various parties must agree on when the weight certification should be provided. Submitting it when the box is booked is too early for the shipper or forwarder, who may not yet know the container’s exact weight. Waiting until the shipping instruction is provided is too late for the carrier to incorporate the information into its vessel stowage plan.
“Things like these are part of the business processes, and they have a lot of impact on how shippers and forwarders and carriers and terminal operators structure their work,” Kuznetsova said.
She said the new rules will require adjustments to electronic messages, and could prove especially challenging for companies that still use faxes and phone calls for shipping documentation.
Cargo interests and container lines have been working to try to head off problems and develop best practices for dealing with the new rules. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition and the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement have created a working committee comprising 25 shippers and motor carriers from AgTC, eight container lines, and three software providers.
Inttra has launched eVGM, an online discussion group for shipping professionals to discuss ways to smooth the transition. The discussion group will seek ways to use digital technology to adapt to the new rules requiring verification and certification of containers’ “verified gross mass.”
Kuznetsova said registrants so far include more than 100 participants from companies including APL, BDP International, CEVA, Damco, Hapag Lloyd, Hamburg Sud, Kuehne + Nagel, United Arab Shipping Co., and other Inttra customers.
“An e-commerce solution is necessary to minimize the impact of the reporting requirements which otherwise would result in a slow and costly process,” said BDP Vice President John Clark.
Kuznetsova emphasized that the online discussion group’s participants will be separate from Inttra’s market development, and that participants will not be required to work with a specific vendor to comply with the new rules.
“Some have said that SOLAS VGM could be to the ocean shipping industry what Y2K was to the broader business world,” Kuznetsova said. “These survey results are consistent with that, as they reflect concerns over potential disruption and lack of preparedness. We believe that coordinated action can facilitate a smooth transition.”