New SOLAS Legislation – Who’s Responsible for What?


The Safety of life at Sea (SOLAS) Legislation, which made container weight verification a condition to load marine cargo into a ship, became legally binding on 1 July 2016.


The changes had been advocated for many years and are intended to reduce the number of accidents caused by container overloading, container stack collapses and vessel instability, as well as reduce damage to cargo, stress to ships and machinery, environmental impacts and insurance claims.  Verifying container weights prior to vessel loading is also a critical safety issue.

According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Australian legislation has required shippers to provide an accurate gross mass on maritime shipping documents since 1994, which means that many shippers will already comply with the new requirements.

5 things you need to remember about the new SOLAS legislation that will make your shipping containers AMSA compliant.

There are two approved methods of weighing containers.

The first method involves weighing the full container in its entirety.  In the second method, all the packages and cargo items in the container are weighed individually and then added to the ‘tare’ weight of the container plus the weights of any other materials (such as packaging, pallets, dunnage etc) to reach the gross mass.  All weighing has to be done using calibrated and certified equipment.

‘The shipper’ is legally responsible for the declared verified gross mass of the container.

The person whose name appears on the Bill of Lading is classed as ‘the shipper’ and is legally responsible for the verified declaration of container weights.  When an exporter instructs a forwarding agent to handle the packing, weighing and transport of the goods, they are still classified as ‘the shipper’ regardless if they have used a third party.

The container cannot be loaded onto the ship if the weight has not been verified.

If the shipper doesn’t provide a verified gross mass (VGM) for a container, then that the container cannot be loaded onto the ship.  VGM declaration is a legal requirement and is a condition of vessel loading, and penalties may apply for non-compliance.  AMSA may audit shippers to ask for evidence as to how they obtained the VGM and may also conduct audits when non-compliance with the SOLAS Order is suspected.  During an audit, AMSA will examine the processes by which the shipper obtained the VGM and will take action to ensure compliance.

There is currently no allowable margin of error in VGM

There is currently no provision in SOLAS for any margin of error as the requirement is for an actual physical weighing requirement, not an estimate.

All weighing equipment has to be calibrated and certified

All weighing equipment including scales, weighbridges, lifting equipment or any other device that is used to determine the weight of either the packed container or its contents, has to be calibrated and certified.

Accuweigh is a supplier of certified and calibrated weighing equipment that it claims ensures compliance with the new SOLAS legislation.  It is also authorised to test all weighing equipment.

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Source: Logistics & Materials Handling