If you are involved in international trade, then you’ve recently heard the buzzword SOLAS and an enforcement date of July 1, 2016. Below contains a summary of SOLAS and what to be prepared for.

What is SOLAS?

  • SOLAS,” an acronym made from The International Convention for theSafety of Life at Sea,” is an international treaty that governs the safe operation of all ships engaged in international maritime trade. The SOLAS Convention specifies the minimum standards for the construction, equipment, and operation of merchant ships. The United States is a signatory to SOLAS.

Who is responsible?

  • The shipper is responsible for verified gross weight of the shipment.

Who is considered the shipper?

  • According to the International Maritime Organization a shipper is a legal entity or person named on the bill of lading or sea waybill or equivalent multimodal transport document (e.g., a “through” bill of lading) as shipper and/or who (or in whose name or on whose behalf) a contract of carriage has been concluded with a shipping company.
  • However, who the shipper really is can be a daunting task to figure out in the myriad of relationships that international shipping transactions create.
  • Note, if you are the shipper, you want to ensure you are SOLAS ready, meaning you have a plan to ensure you know the verified gross weight – and potentially contracts in place to help avoid SOLAS liability.

What is verified gross weight?

  • Verified gross weight or VGW is the certified Gross Cargo weight (including weight of all packing material) plus Container Tare weight.

How do I weigh my cargo to comply with SOLAS?

  • To help you ensure you declare an accurate weight the International Maritime Organization has detailed what shippers can do to ensure they comply.
    • One of the methods would be to weigh the entire packed container.
    • A second method would be to weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other securing material to be packed in the container and adding the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses, using a certified method approved by the competent authority of the State in which packing of the container was completed.

What may happen if I (the shipper) do not provide the VGW?

  • Your shipment may be delayed or left at port; however, more realistically the master or his representative will most likely obtain the VGW on behalf of the shipper by weighing the packed container at the terminal (and charge the “shipper” for this service).

Can I provide estimates of weight?

  • Weight estimates are not permitted under SOLAS.

Effective date:

  • Although SOLAS has been in effect for a years there is a renewed interest in ensuring that shippers are declaring the correct weight for the safety of the entire vessel. Therefore, as of July 1, 2016 strict enforcement of this will start to occur on a port-to-port basis.

Making Sense of SOLAS:

  • Want help making sense of SOLAS? We’re here to help, contact us today at info@diaztradelaw.com, or 305-456-3830.

What steps have you taken to comply with SOLAS?