Many UK importers and exporters are hopefully aware of the new SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations coming into effect from July 1st 2016 to ensure that container vessels are not overloaded and don't in turn, place lives and vessels at risk.
The new law insists that shippers take legal responsibility for the declaration of a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) either involving them weighing the complete container (Method 1) or their cargo and the empty container weight (Method 2).
Although these changes have been publicized for at least 6 months, it is fair to say that the industry stakeholders in this change (freight forwarders, shipping lines, port operators) have struggled to communicate / collaborate effectively and in some regions such as Asia and the USA, it is very concerning that the industry is either down to the wire or just plain "not ready" and more importantly, freight forwarders seem to have been slow to advise their customers/shippers how to comply with the law and what they need to do from July 1st.
The region of most concern seems to be Asia, where the industry seems only to have woken up to the regulation change in the last 15-30 day, having said that, the USA is also lagging behind.
So why should you as a UK exporter or importer be concerned? Well, if you or your freight forwarder are not ready to comply from July 1st, your containers will be delayed and in turn, your end customers will be affected with missed deadlines or stock shortages..
Here in the UK, the area we see the biggest area of concern is for UK importers, who may think they won't be affected as they don't load containers however they will be affected, as their overseas suppliers will need to comply and what we've seen ourselves is that this really important area has been missed
From our side, we've been monitoring the situation very closely for 3-4 months and have ensured that all of our customers' overseas suppliers have been contacted and are ready to play their part in ensuring a smooth transition.
If you are a UK exporter or importer and you're not aware or don't feel that your freight forwarder is on top of this regulation change, we suggest you get in touch with them urgently and ask for an update on how they intend to ensure that the flow of containers from overseas suppliers or to your international customers will not be disrupted.
If you need any help to ensure either you or your overseas suppliers are ready for the big chamge, please do contact us. We'll also probably find that you're actually paying too much for your freight costs and given that the USD is very strong at the moment, most companies want to try and reduce their landed costs to ensure they preserve their profit margins. We operate gain share / shared savings fee models which are very appealing to customers as they're results based and the customer doesn't have to spend days of their valuable time carrying out this complicated exercise.
Just take a look at our website if you're interested, it may be the best decision you've made in 2016.
Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles.
Andy is part of the judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day.