Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard: Preparing for July 2016 SOLAS Shipper Mandates

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) new requirements go into effect on July 1, 2016, stating that all packed containers must have verified gross mass weights reported to the carrier and terminal before loading. Shippers, beneficial cargo owners or non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOCCs) are responsible for verifying weights. Shippers are required to communicate verified weights in a shipping document.

According to the World Shipping Council’s guidelines on the law, “In order to address safety problems at sea and on shore arising from container shipments that have incorrect weight declarations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, Chapter VI Regulation 2 – Cargo information regarding a mandatory container gross weight verification.”

What does this mean for you?

As often occurs with new requirements, questions continue to swirl and some companies are going to feel ill-prepared as the deadline arises. Others have already started planning for the move.

The primary challenge is figuring out how to locate and gather the right data, and then delivering it along with existing order documentation. Many shippers and carriers aren’t certification ready — that is, they don’t have the functionality or processes in place today to easily comply. For carriers and their customers, it’s important to look at the technical capabilities required. Some may find themselves plugging up holes using manual processes behind the scenes. This creates more challenges moving forward. Rather, data and documentation workflows that exist in an automated, paperless environment are well suited to handle compliance without mass disruption. A number of carriers, for example, use cloud technology to offer an e-commerce platform to handle customer transactions. Electronic data and connectivity, in these cases, will ease the burden on carriers and their customers when the new certification requirements kick in.

This also opens the door to a broader way of thinking.

Today’s global supply chains reach across continents and time zones. They tie together raw materials providers, suppliers, manufacturers, ocean carriers, retailers, and 3PLs. Companies demand better insights and visibility into their supply chains to deal with the added complexity. This is essential for carriers and logistics providers, who operate key components of the enterprise supply chain. And because of this, their customers demand high capabilities and service levels. This includes technology capabilities.

Carriers and shippers need to be aligned in a collaborative, open environment not only for the sake of requirements such as these, but in day-to-day transactions. A collaborative e-commerce model enables carriers to offer greater levels of service, visibility and collaboration. As supply chains become increasingly complex and challenging, every party involved is focused on its customers’ needs. A cloud approach can help customers prepare for upcoming container weight verification mandates, but more importantly, it simplifies necessary data transfers and fosters deeper levels of collaboration and visibility to meet end-customer needs.

Leading carriers can provide a competitive advantage to help customers maintain a handle on outsourced production. Cloud supply chain technologies that align parties and deliver hyper-connectivity are changing the game. Innovative carriers are delivering collaborative new solutions that help customers transform their supply chains and achieve new levels of visibility and maturity. Many have deployed cloud technology platforms to serve as an easy-to-use, transparent tool to facilitate bookings and shipping documentation. The real power is beyond these point benefits – in the essence of transparency and collaboration fostered at the core of the relationship. This will be a strategic advantage in the years ahead, with implications far beyond the IMO requirements.

MichelleCummingsMichelle Cummings is Vice President, Ocean Services and Partners, at GT Nexus, an Infor Company. She has over two decades of sales, marketing and operations experience in the container shipping and logistics industries. At GT Nexus, Michelle is currently responsible for ocean transportation transaction business, which involves all of the top ocean carriers and 3PLs, plus many of the world’s largest shippers, forwarders and consignees. She is a subject matter expert in ocean data quality as well as creating internal efficiencies for carriers and customers through operational process improvements. Prior to GT Nexus, Michelle was Vice President of North America for Inttra and Vice President of Sales and Business Information Systems for Maritime Direct in New York City. She has also held various management positions within the Ocean Freight Industry including Director of Sales and Marketing for Cast North America, CP Ships, based in their Montreal Headquarters. Michelle earned a B.A. degree in Communications from Michigan State University.