Questions over SOLAS implementation
Published:  01 April, 2016

Many say the EU is full of red tape, but we seem perfectly capable of tying business up all by ourselves. New international regulations on safety at sea (SOLAS) are due to arrive in July 2016, requiring verified weighing of containers. Everyone supports the reasoning behind the regulations: to prevent destabilising a vessel etc. 

The consultation on this took place in 2012, but until a recent meeting between IMTA and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), no one had raised the practicalities of exporting meat.

Meat is not a uniform commodity, making assumptions on unit weight impossible. Exporting is not always done from the same loading point. IMTA members specialise in buying product not required by the domestic market from various sources and finding markets outside the EU. Such a trade requires the ability to react quickly – any system that requires a process of approval by an enforcement body, particularly where resources are stretched, is another UK-imposed barrier to overcome.

We are less than four months away from implementation and, while the MCA kindly attended a meeting with IMTA, a number of crucial questions remain unanswered – not least, how is it being implemented in other countries around the world and will our exporters be unfairly disadvantaged by the UK system? Government communication has to improve. If you go on the Open to Export Website there is no mention of SOLAS or the need to weigh containers, or the fact that, without it, the container will not be loaded.

The SOLAS regulation provides a good argument for pilot studies to understand the implications for trade. Regulation is written by bureaucrats, who are disconnected from the commercial reality. Instead of signing off on new regulations and leaving the trade to try and muddle through within the confines of what the regulation allows, trials/pilots should be used as routine in regulatory change.