Port of Houston Authority SOLAS Update

We are pleased to provide information on Port Authority processes at Barbours Cut Terminal and Bayport Container Terminal effective July 1, 2016 for:

• Handling and weighing containers; and
• Assisting with the management of SOLAS Regulation VI/2 (SOLAS), which will require as of July 1, 2016 that shippers provide export container VGMs to the vessel master and terminal representative.

1. Background.

a. The Port Authority currently provides management, labor, gate infrastructure, and technology solutions for processing and handling containers at BCT and Bayport.  The Port Authority licenses Navis N4 software as its Terminal Operating System (TOS) to manage gate, yard, vessel, EDI messages, and billing events.

b. For many years the Port Authority has transmitted the gross container weight of export loads received into its terminals through the truck in-gate process to ocean carriers via industry-standard EDI 322 messages.  The Port Authority also transmits the same gross container weights to vessels via the industry-standard BAPLIE electronic file.  The Port Authority’s TOS provides these capabilities.

• Navis, the Port Authority, other marine terminal operators using Navis software, and ocean carriers calling BCT and Bayport have developed additional capabilities within the existing EDI and BAPLIE sets to accommodate VGM messaging, in anticipation of the July 1, 2016 SOLAS effective date.

2. The Port Authority’s SOLAS Process.

a. When a truck transporting a container arrives at the terminal gate, the gross weight of the truck power unit (tractor), container, and intermodal chassis will be obtained, using the Port Authority’s certified scales.

b. The TOS will calculate gross container weight data by subtracting information on the chassis weight and tractor weight from the gross weight obtained at the gate.

• Information on tractor weight and chassis weight may be derived from (i) standard, average weights for tractor and chassis; (ii) weights previously registered in the TOS; (iii) weights provided at the gate by the truck driver; or (iv) weights stenciled or placarded on the equipment.

c. The Port Authority’s TOS will then transmit the gross container weight data directly to the vessel operator via a standard BAPLIE electronic file, for use in stowage planning.

• This process and the scale equipment used for providing gross container weight data meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements for terminals supplying VGM under SOLAS.  See, e.g.: https://www.uscg.mil/msib/docs/009_16_4-28-2016.pdf

• The gross container weight, so derived and transmitted, is obtained on behalf of the shipper, but neither the shipper nor the terminal operator signs any document or electronic message accompanying the transmission.

• On June 28th, the Port Commission approved new tariff subrules –“Weighing of Containers as Required by Regulation VI/2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)” – for BCT (Tariff No. 14 Subrule No. 079) and Bayport (Tariff No. 15 Subrule No. 081). These state that a shipper is deemed to appoint the Port Authority as its agent for the purpose of weighing the container and supplying this gross container weight data at those terminals, which the shipper is deemed to accept, represent, and designate as the VGM.

d. Shippers will not be required to designate the Port Authority’s gross weight data as the VGM and may submit their own VGM to the Port Authority via an EDI 301 or VERMAS message through the ocean carrier.

e. The Port Authority will require that a VGM submitted by an ocean carrier be received by the Port Authority prior to the container processing through a Port Authority in-gate.  Loaded container stack management in the Port Authority’s container yards mandates this requirement.

• The Port Authority’s container yard stacks are stowed to the same standard as most container ships calling at BCT and Bayport: “no inversion of weights” for container stacks.  If shipper VGMs were received after stowage in the container yard, any variance from the weight obtained at the in-gate would require rehandling of containers in the container yard prior to or during vessel operations.

3. No Additional Charges for Supplying Weight Data.  The Port Authority will not impose any additional charges for the services described in paragraph 3(a) through (c) above.

• However, the Port Authority’s Booking Roll/Storage Fee for Export Containers (Tariff 14, Subrule 093 and Tariff 15, Subrule 095) will be assessed for storage exceeding seven days in the event of any SOLAS-related delay, including when a container received into the container yards misses its intended vessel.

4. A Common Process.  The Port Authority’s process meets the Terminal Weighing Approach to providing VGM agreed to by the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA) and six publicly-operated ports, including the Port Authority.

The Port Authority looks forward to its shipping customers taking advantage of this common process.