Bengaluru: India’s maritime administration has urged container terminals to abstain from re-verifying the weight of already weighed cargo containers before they are loaded on to a ship to conform to a new global rule that took effect from 1 July.
While exporters (shippers) have been submitting the verified gross mass (VGM) certificates as required by the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) Convention of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the containers are compulsorily re-weighed at the terminal at extra cost to the shippers.
Some terminals are levying additional charges for variance in the weight declared by the shippers even though the weight of the containers remain within the permissible limits, the directorate general of shipping said.
The guidelines framed by the directorate general of shipping to implement the IMO-mandated rule in India, at no stage encourage such additional weighing of containers by terminals with the attendant imposition of costs on shippers.
“The additional process or additional charges by the terminals are not mandated and may undermine free trade practices. This office is of the considered view that the amendments to the SOLAS Convention pertaining to safety aspects should not be unfairly and unreasonably leveraged by intermediaries between the shipper and ship to impose an additional burden/cost on the exporter of cargo from India, thereby hindering the export trade of India," K.P. Jayakumar, India’s deputy nautical adviser, wrote in a 23 August notice.
Container terminals, though, argue that their role in implementing the IMO rule is clearly spelt out.
“The IMO guidelines clearly establish the need of a re-verification process once the container has been delivered to the port terminal facility. It casts a responsibility on the port terminal facility to ensure the accuracy of the reporting. In fact, it recognizes the crucial role that the terminal plays in the whole SOLAS regulation requirements by stating that if there is a difference between the verified gross mass obtained and the port facilities weighing of the container, then the port facility weighing of the container shall prevail," a spokesman for the Indian Private Ports and Terminals Association (IPPTA), an industry lobby group, said.
But the DGS says that while the IMO convention was mandatory, it’s circular is a guidance document that is not mandatory for nations to abide by fully.
Some of India’s state-owned ports that handles containers say that the container weighing charges levied by the private terminals operating there does not have the backing of the port rate regulator, the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP).
Private terminals have not applied for collecting a container weighment charge nor had TAMP approved it, a spokesman for the authority said.