SOLAS  New Container Weighing Requirements

Change is on the horizon in the shipping industry, and it is important to make sure you are staying informed. Effective July 1st, 2016, changes adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regarding verified container weights will become effective. These changes were first introduced at the 2014 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, but it is now time for implementation. The full text of the applicable SOLAS regulations can be found here

These regulations initially came about as a result of safety issues within the shipping industry. There were problems regarding overweight/underweight containers, misreported freight, poor weight distribution within containers, and more: see “Safety and Shipping Review 2014“. Ideally these changes will help accomplish a reduction in loss of containers from vessels, increased assurance to all parties within the supply chain, and overall improved safety.  These new requirements will apply to all 171 IMO member countries, as well as the three associate members of this organization.

The responsibilities of the shipper (as designated by the bill of lading) under these new regulations are particularly important. The shipper will now be required to verify the gross mass of each container via a signed document; this document must be physically signed (stamps will be unacceptable), and the form must be submitted in time to be used by the master and terminal representatives in the ship’s stowage plan.  The shipper has the option of submitting the container weight via the shipping instructions to the line, or in a specific communication such as a weight certificate. Regardless of submission method, the weight included must be designated as the “verified gross mass” and authorized by the accompanying signature. The shipper is able to determine whether they would prefer to weigh the contents of the container prior to or after loading, but the critical designation is that estimated weights are not permitted. The equipment used to weigh contents must meet national certification requirements, and the party verifying container weight is not permitted to use weight provided by a previous party. Click here for the Implementing Guidelines issued by MSC

The execution of enforcement for this new requirement will be put on the shoulders of the carriers. Essentially, carriers are highly encouraged to refuse to load containers for which a signed weight verification is missing. Refusing to carry these containers will encourage shippers to abide by the new requirements set forth by SOLAS. As July is only a few months away, it is important for shippers to begin proactively planning how they will adjust their processes to abide by these new requirements.


If you are in need of additional resources or more information, please visit the following link:



Newly Proposed FMC Regulations

On May 31, 2013 the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”) published proposed changes to the rules regulating Ocean Transportation Intermediaries (“OTI’s”) and Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (“NVOCC’s”). The 60-day comment period ended on July 30, 2013 and the Final Publication is expected to be released sometime in December 2013 with the effective date sometime in February 2014.

We have created an easy to understand chart detailing the proposed changes for download. Click the link below to download.

For more information on small claims and other proceedings before the FMC, please contact us by phone at (800) 583-0250 or (850) 893-0670; by fax at (850) 391-4228; by mail at 1911 Capital Circle N.E., Tallahassee, FL 32308; or by email at  You may also find more information by visiting the FMC website at

The Mooney Law Firm: FMC Regulation Changes Chart


The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Updates Its Freight Forwarder Guidance

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) recently posted new export control guidance for freight forwarders on its website. BIS enforces the Export Administration Regulations, which regulate the conduct of both shippers and trade intermediaries and, among other things, prohibits the unlicensed export of controlled items to certain destinations. BIS has brought administrative enforcement actions against large and small forwarders over the years, while at the same time declining to specify exactly what forwarders’ compliance obligations are. A link to BIS’s new guidance is below.

BIS’s new posting presumably attempts to clarify forwarders’ responsibilities. It states that “primary responsibility” for compliance with the EAR falls upon the principal parties in interest to a transaction. The Census regulations provide that principal parties in interest are “[t]hose persons in a transaction that receive the primary benefit, monetary or otherwise . . .. Generally, the principal parties in interest in a transaction are the seller and buyer. In most cases, the forwarding or other agent is not a principal party in interest.”

However, as the BIS posting discusses, when a U.S. seller sells goods ex works and obtains from the foreign buyer a writing wherein the buyer assumes responsibility for complying with export control regulations, it is no longer the “exporter” as defined by the EAR. In that case, the foreign principal party in interest – the foreign buyer – undertakes to export the goods itself, typically through its own forwarder. The foreign principal party in interest provides a power of attorney to its forwarder to file EEI (SED) information on its behalf. In that instance, the forwarder, as agent for the foreign principal party in interest, becomes the “exporter” under the EAR with primary compliance responsibility because the EAR states that the “exporter” is “[t]he person in the United States who has the authority of a principal party in interest to determine and control the sending of items out of the United States.”

A forwarder filing EEI on behalf of a foreign principal party in interest in a routed export transaction must be diligent in determining the correct export control classification for the goods at issue and obtaining a license if necessary. It stands in the shoes of the foreign principal party in interest, which has expressly promised to the USPPI that it will comply with the EAR and make necessary license determinations. It helps to think of the situation from a practical standpoint: in a routed export transaction scenario, it would be exceedingly difficult for BIS to hold the foreign party directly responsible for compliance errors because the foreign party does not have a U.S. presence, making the issue jurisdiction problematic. Furthermore, it would turn logic on its ear to have a foreign party – whose sole interest is obtaining U.S. goods – to ascertain licensing requirements under U.S. law. On the other hand, a U.S. agent of a foreign buyer is clearly subject to BIS jurisdiction and is easily prosecuted for wrongdoing. Thus, in a routed transaction, the enforcement axe will fall on the forwarder acting as the U.S. agent of a foreign principal party in interest if controlled goods are exported without a license.

BIS’s new posting clarifies that, in a routed transaction, the forwarder must (i) prepare the SED based on information received from the U.S. PPI; (ii) maintain documentation to support the information reported on the export declaration; and (iii) upon request, providing the U.S. PPI with a copy of the SED filed by the agent. It also must correctly determine licensing requirements. To that end, the regulations provide that the U.S. principal party in interest must provide to the forwarder the goods’ correct Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) or sufficient technical information to determine the ECCN, along with any information that it knows will affect the determination of license authority. BIS’s posting warns that “[a]n agent should avoid making commodity classifications for which it lacks technical expertise, and should obtain support documentation for ECCNs and other material.” Thus, forwarders should not attempt to determine from looking at an item whether it is controlled, which is sound advice insofar as the Commerce Control List frequently controls items based upon performance specifications that would be unknown to a forwarder.

The posting advises that a forwarder should seek backup documentation from the USPPI to support the USPPI’s classification of its goods. This is interesting insofar as the USPPI is already obliged to provide the correct ECCN; BIS apparently wants forwarders to go one step forwarder and obtain secondary evidence that the USPPI’s classification is correct. Presumably a forwarder would not be warranted in overruling or changing the USPPI’s classification given BIS’s warning that forwarders should avoid making classifications, so the practical usefulness of this step is open to question.

BIS’s new forwarder guidance does not discuss other forwarder best practices such as denied party screening. Numerous BIS enforcement actions against forwarders have alleged that the forwarder made improper shipments to denied parties, so this is a curious omission.

Other enforcement actions have indicated that a forwarder should have known that the goods it shipped were controlled even in the absence of positive classification information from the USPPI, and this runs counter to BIS’s guidance that forwarders should not make unilateral classification determinations. We believe that forwarders should, at the very least, be on guard against exporting items such as stun guns, detonators and nuclear materials regardless of the USPPI’s assertions as to their classification because they frequently require licenses, and if documents indicate that these types of goods are being shipped, it is a red flag that should prompt further investigation.

Forwarders should adopt export control compliance programs to reduce the risk of violating the export administration regulations. A compliance program is also a mitigating factor that BIS considers should a forwarder ever be accused of wrongdoing. While BIS’s guidance is helpful, it is only a good start, and forwarders should go the extra mile to implement best practices to avoid export control violations and the stiff penalties that go with them.