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The Impact of the Latest Amendment to the Safety Of Life At Sea Treaty

May 26, 2016

What it is, What to Expect, and How to Prepare.

Whether you think back to your science or physics classes in school, or whether you think back to the board game Topple from the early 80s, the knowledge that weights and balances create a cause and effect is not lost on you. In shipping, weights and balances are vital to the safety and success of a cargo ship’s journey, the contents it carries, and the people on board. If you’ve not experienced it with one of your shipments yet, you’ve seen it on the news: A ship encounters bad weather and high waves at sea causing the containers located at the top of the ship to tumble off, or worse, the whole ship capsizes. If not calibrated properly, a ship can sway or sink, not just causing damage or loss of its containers, but the loss of lives as well.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) that created the Safety of Life at Sea, or “SOLAS” treaty in 1914 after the Titanic disaster, has made four (4) amendments over the years, and it’s about to enact its latest amendment on July 1, 2016, which deals directly with the above concern: verifying container weights. The weights play an integral part in the balance of the ship and where each container will be placed on the ship. While this seems like it would be an easy amendment, the challenges surrounding this new amendment affect every country and every port, and therefore — every sea shipment, every timeframe, every budget, and every employee who is moving overseas. (A link to the IMO’s definition of the SOLAS 2016 amendment and associated guidelines can be found HERE).