Friday, March 18, 2016

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Box-weight verifying platforms might be slow to catch on

By Richard Knee, CBN contributor

Freight data platform providers are modifying their products to support compliance with an imminent mandate for pre-loading container-weight verification, but the new features might be slow to catch on, especially with U.S. shippers resisting the rule.

Some stakeholders question whether the new platforms are necessary.

The rule, to take effect July 1, will require that ocean carrier customers provide Verified Gross Mass data for each container before vessel onloading. VGM equals the total weight of the container and its contents. The rule’s aim is to help shipping lines plan stowage of containers to maximize vessel balance and stability. It amends the Safety of Life at Sea convention of the U.N. International Maritime Organization.

Robert Voltmann, president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association, said technologies and software such as e-mail, Microsoft Office programs and Adobe Acrobat should suffice for providing VGMs.

Anna Kuznetsova, president and COO of the platform provider INTTRA, pointed to a "one-to-many" aspect. Carriers "have thousands of shipping customers, all shippers deal with multiple carriers, and sending millions of messages by e-mail in all directions will be chaotic," she said. "It is important to organize data properly, be able to process thousands of submissions a week – large carriers ship dozens of thousands of containers out of the same terminal per month – etc."

INTTRA’s eVGM software also offers data security, eases integration with existing transportation management systems and allows shippers, carriers and intermediaries to automate existing multiple scenarios, she said.

CargoSmart will offer a multi-channel system for submitting VGM data online and through electronic data interchange in booking requests, shipping instructions and Verification of Mass messages, chief commercial officer Lionel Louie said. The

multi-channel system allows flexibility in timing data submission, he said.

Shippers say they should have to provide only
the weight of cargo, packaging and bracing
materials since they cannot know container
weights in advance.

Louie said CargoSmart is working to help carriers provide accurate box weights to shippers.

Anne Kappel, vice president of the World Shipping Council, said carriers and terminal operators not only are evaluating what companies such as INTTRA, CargoSmart and GT Nexus are offering, but also are looking at their own systems and processes to make necessary changes.

Hamburg Süd is an example. "There are several possible methods for shippers to communcate VGM to carriers. For Hamburg Süd the preferred way receiving VGM information is via … VERMAS," said Robert Cannizzaro, North America vice president of marine and terminal operations. "If that is not possible, Hamburg Süd will offer a simple and easy tool on the E-Portal in order to support the manual input of VGM information. … Finally, Hamburg Süd will receive and process VGM information from any of the e-shipping portals offering such a service," he said.

Jeff Coppersmith, president of Coppersmith Global Logistics, said he supports efforts of shippers’ organizations and the Coast Guard vto clarify who, what, when, where, since no one can tell us why.
No comment at this time regarding how until we get more clarification."

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