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Russia Developing Plan to Certify Scales for Container Weighing
Eugene Gerden, Russia Special Correspondent | Apr 26, 2016
Russia is developing a plan to certify container weighing scales so exporters can meet the International Maritime Organization?s verified gross mass rule with less than 70 days before it takes effect. Russian shippers and marine terminals told JOC.com they are generally confident there won?t be major disruptions from the new SOLAS amendment that requites shippers to provide a VGM to container lines and terminals in order to get their containers aboard a vessel. However, there is still some lingering concern that the installation of weighing equipment and getting it certified might come too late, causing some short-term headaches.

"Dates and deadlines for the installation of such equipment and obtaining of necessary approvals look extremely tight," said Yuriy Matvienko, general director of NUTEP, a container terminal in the Novorossiysk seaport that will offer weighing services to customers. "Due to this, there is a possibility that the influx of applications for this service may result in serious delays in the handling of container cargo at Russian seaports." Others are less concerned. Auchan Russia, part of the French retailing conglomerate, for example, told JOC.com it doesn?t expect any delays. Shippers will have to take on extra costs if they decide to weigh their goods and add the tare of the container on site to gain the VGM.

An official spokesperson of Auchan Russia said that the company has a special department in Russia that deals with all the necessary preparations for the SOLAS rule. To date, the company hasn't sounded any alarms about potential problems when the rule enters force. Container Terminal Saint-Petersburg, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the Russian Baltic, is adding new weighing equipment and modernizing its IT infrastructure to transmit VGMs via electronic data interchange, said Margarita Voronina, corporate affairs director. She said a final decision on charges for generating VGMs has yet to be reached, but that the terminal will make its decision next month.

Terminals and shippers will soon have guidance on how to get their weighing stations certified by the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping and the agency in the next few weeks will begin accepting applications for the inspection of scales and weighing techniques. The agency will check container weighing stations every five years, with interim inspections set for 30 months. The cost of scale inspections will be 1,650 rubles ($24.83) per hour, and inspections shouldn't not take more than a day.

The government by the end of the month is also expected to set rates for container weighing done at ports.

Port of Houston: No VGM Documentation, No Load
American Shipper - April 28, 2016
The Port of Houston authority announced its new policy on container weights, as well as container throughput for the first quarter and developments with ongoing infrastructure improvement projects. The Port of Houston will not accept containers at terminal gates that do not have a certified container weight electronically on file prior to arrival, effective July 1, the port authority announced Thursday. The new policy is in line with many other ports as the deadline approaches for complying with an amendment to the International Maritime Organization's Safety of Life at Sea convention.

The updated rule is designed to address ocean carrier concerns about containers that have incorrect weights listed on their shipping documents, either due to deliberate efforts to avoid paying overweight fees or because the weight of the contents was estimated. Overweight boxes can potentially undermine stowage plans, which are created to help balance vessels for stability and structural support. In addition to potentially compromising safe operations at sea, heavy boxes pose an extra danger for longshoremen at ports because they sometimes can fall from the grip of cargo handling equipment.

Shippers are supposed to share the weight with their ocean carrier, which in turn will provide the information to the terminal operator. The verified gross mass (VGM) data can be gathered by weighing the entire container and its contents, or by weighing the contents and dunnage, and adding them to the tare weight stenciled on the side of each container.
The extra administrative work, IT processes and liability issues associated with the change have many exporters, particularly in the agricultural community, up in arms. Their preference is to provide the weight of the contents and let the carriers plug in the weight of their own boxes. So far, the Seagirt Terminal at the Port of Baltimore, operated by Ports America, is the only known US facility that has said it will accept boxes without a VGM. Ports America is offering to weigh the boxes on its own scales or let shippers pick up the box, take it to a third-party scale and return it to the yard.

Port of Charleston has scales that it uses to routinely weigh export loads, and officials say they are willing to provide the info to shippers if requested. Meanwhile, container volumes at the Port of Houston dipped 2.4 percent in March to 182,204 TEUs and were down 3 percent for the first quarter to 510,639 TEUs, the port authority said. The growth figures, however, are in comparison to the first quarter of 2015, which represented the strongest quarter in Houston's history. The port authority said it has retained a substantial portion of the business that was diverted from the West Coast last year when ports were overcrowded due to a union labor dispute and work slowdown.

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New Report Illustrates Economic Benefits for US Firms Doing Business with Trans-Pacific Countries
US Department of Commerce - April 22, 2016
US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker released a new report that highlights the benefits US businesses can experience when exporting to the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries. The report details each market?s top export sectors and explains how existing tariffs will be impacted once the agreement enters into force.

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership enhances the United States" global competitiveness and is critical to growing our economy and supporting good-paying US jobs," said Secretary Pritzker. "This report provides US companies with information to more effectively export their products to some of the world's fastest-growing markets and understand how critical TPP is to their global export efforts." The TPP is comprised of a diverse range of markets that range from top US export destinations - Canada, Mexico, and Japan - to growing Asia region markets - Malaysia and Vietnam - and Latin American markets with existing trade agreements for TPP to build upon - Chile and Peru.

The report shows US businesses how this important agreement can open doors for the high-quality American products and services that global consumers desire. By eliminating more than 18,000 tariffs on 'Made-in-America- products sold overseas, the TPP will enable US businesses to compete on a level playing field, while defining the highest standards on labor, the environment, and the digital economy ever to be included in a trade agreement. In 2013, nearly 176,000 US companies exported goods to TPP countries. In 2014, US goods exports to TPP markets totaled $726.5 billion and supported nearly 3.1 million jobs.

According to a recent Peterson Institute for International Economics report, approving and implementing TPP will result in higher US real national income and additional exports each year after it is enacted. By 2030, those yearly gains will be $131 billion in additional income and $357 billion in additional Made-in-America exports. The Peterson analysis finds that the bulk of this income gain goes to American workers and that this income growth will result in higher wages for American workers.

The Department of Commerce is committed to educating US businesses and workers on the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. To view the full report, visit www.trade.gov/fta/tpp/pdfs/full-country-report.pdf . To learn more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, visit www.trade.gov/tpp . To help determine tariff reductions for various products to TPP countries once the agreement enters into force, visit the newly updated Tariff Tool.

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TPP Opportunities by Market Webinar on May 3
US Department of Commerce - April 25, 2016
To complement the release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Opportunities by Market Report, we are hosting a webinar on May 3 from 2:00pm to 3:00pm (ET) that will provide an overview of how TPP will contribute to new commercial opportunities in the TPP markets. To register for the webinar, please click here . I encourage you to share this email with your membership, partners, and stakeholders. Finally, my team would be pleased to work with you to host a webinar specific to your organization?s membership. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a separate TPP webinar for your membership, please contact TPPInfo@trade.gov.

USCG Outlines Methods for VGM Compliance
US Coast Guard - April 29, 2016
Scales currently used to comply with federal and state laws are acceptable for complying with the new International Maritime Organization container weight regulations due to go into effect July 1, according to the US Coast Guard. "Existing US laws and regulations for providing verified container weights are equivalent to the requirements" in the new regulation under the Safety of Life at Sea convention that goes into effect on July 1, the US Coast Guard said Thursday in a Marine Safety Information Bulletin.

The Coast Guard said it has sent a letter to the International Maritime Organization "outlining its determination that its current regulatory regime provides for other entities within the container export chain to work in combination with the shipper to determine and verify container weights, and it provides ships" masters with container weights in order to ensure ships are loaded and operated safely."

In the bulletin, the Coast Guard says: "Shippers, carriers, terminals, and maritime associations have outlined multiple acceptable methods for providing verified gross mass (VGM). A couple examples are: (1) the terminal weighs the container, and when duly authorized, verifies the VGM on behalf of the shipper, and (2) the shipper and carrier reach agreement whereby the shipper verifies the weight of the cargo, dunnage, and other securing material, and the container's tare weight is provided and verified by the carrier."

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition noted that the South Carolina Ports Authority has supported the first of those examples, --of allowing shippers to use container terminal scales to comply with the SOLAS requirement.
AgTC has also been pushing carriers to accept that second approach, resisting a best practice outlined by the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association, a group of 19 carriers, requiring the shipper add the tare weight of the containers. On Wednesday OCEMA, a group of 19 carriers said that shippers could rely on the tare weight printed on the container or provided using a database generated by the carrier.

AgTC said the Coast Guard bulletin "means that responsibility to submit VGM is NOT entirely on the shipper and the OCEMA/carrier "Best Practices - Method 1 and 2" are NOT the only means of compliance. Most importantly, it frees individual ocean carriers to develop, in concert with their customers, means of compliance that make economic and operational sense for both. Today's Coast Guard action permits, but does not require carriers to act independently in their own interests, however the AgTC strongly encourages them to do so, and remains available to facilitate such dialogue."

The Coast Guard said "For the purposes of determining the VGM of a container, any equipment currently being used to comply with Federal or State laws, including the Intermodal Safe Container Transportation Act and the container weight requirements in 29 CFR 1918.85(b), are acceptable for the purpose of complying with SOLAS."

Peter Friedmann, the executive director of the AgTC said he was pleased with the Coast Guard bulletin and equivalency letter to the IMO, feeling it will influence other countries and how they approach compliance with the VGM regulation. "It will restore sanity," he said. The Coast Guard "has cleared the way for individual carriers to work with their customers, to save both the carriers and shippers millions of dollars of cost and burden, delay and disruption, software system rewriting, etc., through a rational means of SOLAS compliance."

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ACE Filing Reaches New Milestones
US Customs - April 28, 2016
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a new milestone for the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system, with more than 75 percent of all cargo imported into the United States?approximately 81,000 of the total 108,000 transactions every day?now being processed electronically through ACE. The ACE system is also successfully processing approximately 97 percent of entry summary documentation, the critical information needed by the US government to correctly assess duties, collect statistics, and ensure compliance with US trade law.

ACE is the "Single Window? through which businesses electronically transmit required information to the US Government, giving trade stakeholders earlier access to shipment data while speeding the flow of legitimate trade. ACE will also help reduce costs for businesses and government.

"We are very encouraged by the recent growth in ACE filings, particularly with the major increases we have seen in ACE cargo release filing in recent weeks," said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. "The entire leadership team here at CBP continues to work closely with the customs brokers, importers, and others in the trade community to drive this successful transition to ACE and the creation of the US Government's Single Window to meet the President?s year-end goal."

The next key milestone in the transition to ACE/Single Window is May 28, when filers will be required to file in ACE electronic entries (cargo release) for the most commonly filed entry types, as well as Foreign Trade Zone entries and entry summaries. CBP is on track, together with trade and Partner Government Agency stakeholders, to deliver all core trade processing capabilities by the end of December 2016 in order to meet the goal of the President's 2014 Single Window Executive Order. (and ... as agreed to with the majority of other key economies around the world as supported by APEC, the WCO and the WTO ... comment by John Leitner)

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