US Congress turns eye toward SOLAS container weight rule
Mark Szakonyi, Executive Editor, JOC.com | Apr 06, 2016 2:04PM EDT
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Congress will look into the impact the global SOLAS container weight rule will have on exporters next week, the latest sign of how some shippers’ frustration with the rule is mounting ahead of the July 1 deadline.
A House subcommittee on April 14 will hear from representatives of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, a fierce opponent of the International Maritime Organization rule; the U.S. Coast Guard, the agency tasked with implementing the amendment to the Safety at Sea convention; the National Association of Waterfront Employers; and the World Shipping Council, which pushed for the rule for its members that control 90 percent of the world’s liner capacity.
Although the amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention approved in 2014 has been raised at several congressional hearings, the April 14 hearing titled, “Maritime Transportation Safety and Stewardship Programs,” is the first time the issue will come front and center on Capitol Hill. Issues other than SOLAS are expected to also be discussed, according to three people close to the matter.
Those scheduled to testify at the hearing are: Donna Lemm, vice president of sales and marketing at logistics provider Mallory Alexander and a member of AgTC’s SOLAS committee; WSC CEO and President John Butler; John Crowley, executive director of NAWE; and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, according to their respective organizations and agency. The House T&I committee didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission hosted a Feb. 18 public meeting led by Thomas on SOLAS, but Congress has been largely silent on the issue. One of the few times the issue came up was when Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft during an House appropriations hearing on March 15 said the rule “was run through the IMO” and “is not a regulatory process per se, but it really does apply to exporters to verify the weight of a container before it’s loaded onto a ship and then exported to a foreign country.”
When asked by Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, of how exporters can be sure the rule won’t hamper shipments, Zukunft said the agency has done “significant” industry outreach.
“I am not seeing the sky falling,” Zukunft told the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.