Cebu Shipping Stakeholders produce draft policy on SOLAS VGM ruling

The Port of Cebu is almost ready for the July implementation of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) policy on verified gross mass (VGM). This, after a cargo handler and a group of ocean carriers based in Cebu produced a draft order that the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) can use to locally adopt the measure.

Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (OPASCOR) and the Association of International Shipping Lines Cebu Chapter have submitted the draft policy to CPA and other Cebu port stakeholders for review, according to Atty. Annabel Pulvera-Page, OPASCOR legal and corporate development manager and chief legal officer.

Page, who spoke at the recent first Visayas Shipping Conference 2016 organized by PortCalls and the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association (PISFA), said the draft order was based on CPA’s existing policy on mandatory weighing of outbound containers, Administrative Order No. 01-2008.

By July 1 this year, amendments to Chapter VI Part A of SOLAS will take effect, requiring a shipper to verify and indicate to the carrier or port operator the VGM of a packed container before it is loaded onto the vessel. The amendment states that without the VGM data, the container will not be loaded aboard the vessel.

A competent government agency is required to issue rules specifically related to the SOLAS VGM policy. CPA is Cebu port’s governing body. OPASCOR provides cargo-handling services at Cebu International Port.

Page said CPA plans to conduct public consultation on the draft policy a week after the May 9 national elections and to issue the final draft as soon as possible. A dry run is tentatively set for June 1 to familiarize shippers with the policy and allow for adjustments as needed before July.

According to the draft proposal, the shipper will not be penalized if there is a discrepancy between the weight it submitted and the weight recorded by the terminal. But the shipment will not be accepted at gate-in unless an amendment is made either with the shipping instruction or the cargo itself.

If the submitted VGM has to be amended, Page said shipping lines are being requested to make the process easy to avoid further delays.

The current weigh bridge cost, Page noted, is just P120. A fee for the sticker might be added as well.

On preparations being undertaken by the terminal, Page said the main concern is how shippers can communicate the VGM to the shipping lines. Currently, a process is in place whereby shipping lines relay to OPASCOR the weight of the container.

She noted that once the shipper submits the VGM data to the shipping lines, it will be easily communicated to the cargo handler.

Under the SOLAS amendment, there are three ways for shippers to communicate the VGM—through the shipping line’s website, third-party ports system such as Inttra, and through email, according to Maersk Line Filipinas, Inc. inland operations manager Maria Cecilia Bejoc, who also spoke at the Visayas Shipping Conference.