Implementation of the SOLAS VGM requirements

On May 20, 2016, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) adopted a Circular on the implementation of the SOLAS VGM requirements. The Circular urges Administrations and port state control authorities to “adopt a practical and pragmatic approach when verifying compliance” with the SOLAS VGM requirements for a period of three months following July 1, 2016. To underline the time-limited application of the recommended pragmatic approach, the circular – unusually – includes an expiry date: October 1, 2016. The Circular mentions two concerns to which the suggested enforcement flexibility is directed:

  1. Transshipped containers*, which may begin movement (without a VGM) prior to July 1, but which are to be loaded onto a SOLAS vessel after July 1, 2016.
  2. The need for parties to refine their procedures for documenting and communicating VGM information.

We expect that most SOLAS member states will take the suggestions of the IMO Circular into account in their enforcement activities. However, the Circular is not binding on member states, and thus individual enforcement decisions remain within the discretion of the competent authorities in each country. Two important points should be considered:

a. The effective date of July 1 has not changed.
b. The discussion surrounding the adoption of the Circular indicates that member states will require good faith efforts and continuous improvements in compliance in exchange for any flexibility in enforcement policies. This means that any party (shipper, carrier, or terminal) that cannot demonstrate that it is making efforts to comply with the SOLAS VGM requirements could face penalties for non-compliance beginning on July 1.

As a practical matter, the issuance of the Circular should reduce concerns about overly aggressive enforcement during the Circular’s three-month effective period. However, industry stakeholders and parties in the supply chain should not treat this flexibility as a blanket extension of the effective date. All of the IMO Member States that spoke in support of the adoption of the Circular made very clear that the time limited flexible approach does not amount to – and should not be construed as – a delay or postponement of the SOLAS VGM requirements.

BDP International has taken the necessary actions to ensure that all systems have been upgraded in order to transmit the verified gross mass (VGM) data to the carriers in order to comply with the SOLAS regulation. Additionally, BDP has participated in several committees to understand the impact to the current work flows and make recommendations on how to achieve success with this upcoming world-wide regulatory change.

If you have any questions or concerns about business data flows specific to your account, please contact your BDP account manager. Should you have inquiries regarding the potential regulatory impact to your current data flows, please contact the BDP Regulatory Compliance team at bdpcompliance@bdpint.com.
*Transhipped containers: containers that will be off-loaded from a vessel and loaded onto a different vessel.