In May of 2014, the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) approved changes to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty to require shippers to verify gross mass of a container carrying cargo. This new requirement goes into effect July 1, 2016, and it is currently sending waves of distress through the carrier, port and trade communities.

There are two main parties affected by this SOLAS update – the responsibility of obtaining and documenting the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of a packed container lies with the carrier, however, it is the shipper that must initially supply that information to the carrier. As such, this puts a new spin on the relationship between the shipper and the carrier. Since the information must be provided in advance of vessel loading, the obligation and hence the responsibility, indirectly shifts to the shipper. The issues come down to - how does the shipper weigh the container and what happens if cargo arrives at the terminal with no VGM? Who is responsible then for the VGM?

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Supply chain can be as complex as a Gordian Knot, but none of us has the sword of Alexander the Great to slice it into a simple length of rope. Whether dealing with the ever-changing world of procurement, the volatility of fuel prices, managing the always-present risk (natural or man-made) or any of the myriad issues of supply chain, it takes the best minds to keep products flowing smoothly.

There are two main parties affected by this SOLAS update – the responsibility of obtaining and documenting the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of a packed container lies with the carrier, however, it is the shipper that must initially supply that information to the carrier. As such, this puts a new spin on the relationship between the shipper and the carrier. Since the information must be provided in advance of vessel loading, the obligation and hence the responsibility, indirectly shifts to the shipper. The issues come down to - how does the shipper weigh the container and what happens if cargo arrives at the terminal with no VGM? Who is responsible then for the VGM?

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ACE will allow importers and exporters to share trade documents with government agencies, saving shippers and brokers time and money. But, it’s now the second time in less than 12 months that Customs has tweaked the deadline for its ACE initiative, three years behind schedule and more than $1 billion over budget. Monday’s announcement comes after dozens of brokers, forwarders, importers and exporters lobbied the agency to modify its deadline for the ACE rollout, arguing they were running out of time and more internal agency checks were needed.

“Instead of flipping the switch, they’re dimming the lights,” Liz Connell, vice president of product management at global trade management software company Integration Point, told JOC.com Monday. “It will be more of a transition with a gradual transition over to ACE.”

For now, at least, Connell said, shippers will still have access to both ACE and what will soon be a legacy program, the Automated Commercial System or ACS.

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The delay in ACE implementation is in response to the trade community's concerns about the feasibility of meeting the deadline. One of the main reasons importers, customs brokers, and software providers have been struggling is that even as the date drew nearer, CBP continued to update ACE technical specifications and features, said Elizabeth Connell, vice president of product management and the lead on ACE development and integration for Integration Point, a provider of trade compliance software. Those changes included a major change affecting users of foreign trade zones on Jan. 15, just six weeks before the deadline.

If you manage international shipments, global trade may seem like a never-ending maze of import/export regulations and duty deferral programs. For every product in every country, the rules and regulations are different. As an exporter, you must answer these seven essential questions for each product you ship — which is easy in theory but difficult in practice. For example, in a single motorcycle shipment, the answers to these questions vary greatly depending on your country of import or export.

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There is a lot of news in supply chain management today – from single window initiatives to secure supply chains to regional trade agreements. With each having its own set of obstacles and benefits, companies should not only weigh the costs against the benefits, but also consider the effect that these new policies, rules and agreements will have on their entire supply chain, including trade compliance.

In the last few years, regional trade agreements have taken a foothold in the trade compliance world. Currently there are three major regional trade agreements in negotiation or ratification – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).

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