Tilbury to help shippers obtain VGM

Mar 10 | 2016

At a seminar on 3 February, held by The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport at the offices of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP in London, Jamie Frater, Senior Asset Manager London Container Terminal, Tilbury confirmed that LCT will not be turning customers’ containers away, even if they do not have a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) after the deadline on 1 July, 2016.

LCT will be offering to weigh containers at the terminal for customers that have been unable to obtain a VGM. This news will be a great relief to the moving industry that will feel the full force of the new regulations as household goods traffic is of indeterminate density and often loaded on site where weighing facilities are unavailable.

Jamie said that LCT is trying to make things as straightforward as possible for its customers even though it is the shippers’ responsibility to provide the VGM before containers can be loaded on the vessel. “We will stay in compliance with the law and will not be planning or loading any boxes that do not have a VGM on ships,” he said. “But we are not taking the approach that we will not allow a container into the terminal without a VGM.”

Jamie said that he did not see LCT as the general solution to the problem. The expectation was still that most containers would arrive at the terminal with a VGM. “However, if containers arrive at the terminal without a VGM as long as they have an estimated weight on arrival and the VGM is issued within an agreed timeframe that allows for vessel planning, we will accept the container. The container will be segregated into a separate area until the VGM is received. Should we not receive the VGM within the agreed timeframe, we would reserve the right to have the container weighed with the associated costs charged to the shipping line who would have its own arrangements with the shipper. Should the shipper refuse the terms then the container cannot be planned or shipped so it will be stored at the terminal and the charges passed on to the shipping line.” The shipping line will, of course, then pass those charges back to the shipper (moving company).

“[The process] has to start with the shipper and his arrangements with the shipping line,” said Jamie. “But we are not about to lose business by turning away containers. LCT will have the ability to weigh containers. The Port of Tilbury has two weighbridges and has load cells fitted to some of its straddle carriers that will weigh containers. So if the shipper cannot get a VGM we can and will be able to weigh these containers on behalf of the shipping line who will be doing it on behalf of the shipper. We will charge for that service. It will go into a stack in a separate area, it would be weighed and we would provide that weight back to the line.”

This will take time, of course and it is incumbent upon the shipper to get the container to the terminal in time for this process to operate. Jamie explained that it was necessary for the VGM to be available at least 12 hours before the vessel arrives for deep-sea and by vessel arrival for short sea traffic so the load planning can take place in a timely fashion.

LCT is talking to its customers and is in the process of educating its staff regarding the implementation of VGM regulations. “We have a system in our minds that can be implemented within the current timeframes,” said Jamie. “We are confident that the systems

can be implemented and that we have the weighing capabilities and we will not turn away our customers’ export boxes because they don’t have a VGM.”

A key element in the implementation of the process will be the communication of the VGM to the line. Jamie explained that LCT is investigating whether it will be possible for the VGM to be declared on the community systems used by forwarders and shipping lines. If so this can be linked to the terminal’s vehicle booking system so that the VGM would be known when the container arrives. “It would also identify those without a VGM so that on arrival we can separate that box into an area until the VGM is known,” said Jamie.

There are still elements of the process that are uncertain and things are likely to change between now and the end of June. “But once we have a clear direction from the shipping lines we will look to implement what we have to do which I believe will meet most of the requirements of our customers.”

According to LCT the charges will vary depending on the precise service required but will be no greater than that necessary to cover the terminal’s costs. “We are doing our best to accommodate our customers and the shippers, in the best possible way,” said Jamie.

Photo: Jamie Frater speaking at the CILT seminar on 3 February

How will other ports respond?

With the recent announcements that the ports of Tilbury and Felixstowe (see page ?) are prepared to help their customers comply with the IMO requirement to provide a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for every container loaded, speculation is fuelled as to how other ports will respond. It seems to be that in countries in which ports compete for business, such as the UK, shippers are likely to be helped by market forces as terminals do all they can to help their customers and avoid losing traffic. Where that competition does not exist, however, it’s less likely that the port authorities will be so accommodating.

Time is running out so it is important that shippers worldwide work closely with their shipping lines and port authorities to make sure that a process is in place in time for the July deadline.

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