Effective from 1st July 2016, with the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) amendment covering container weighing regulations, a packed container will no longer be allowed to be loaded on board vessels unless its Verified Gross Mass (VGM) has been provided by the shipper to the ocean carriers and/or port terminal representatives prior to the load list cut-off date.
The new regulation was adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to increase maritime safety and reduce the danger to cargo, containers, and all those involved in container transport throughout the supply chain.
The Verified Gross Mass (VGM) is the weight of the cargo including dunnage and bracing plus the tare weight of the container carrying this cargo. SOLAS requires the shipper to provide VGM in a “shipping document”, either as part of the shipping instruction or in a separate communication, before vessel loading.
The shipper is obliged to verify the gross mass of the containers carrying their cargo by either of two permissible weighing methods before these containers can be loaded on a vessel;
Method 2 will not be practical for shippers of bulk commodities like scrap, grain, etc., and it will be up to local authorities to grant permission to use this method.
Click Here to see an Infographic from Maersk on Container Weighing!
With the new regulation, the shipper will be the responsible party for providing the verified gross mass of every container to the ocean carrier and the terminal representative before vessel loading. But who is the shipper in the context of this new regulation? The shipper is the legal entity;
- Named on the ocean bill of lading or sea way bill or equivalent multimodal transport document as shipper
- Who (or in whose name or on whose behalf) a contract of carriage has been concluded with a shipping company
Thus, irrespective if delegated to a 3rd party or similar, the shipper will always be the responsible party for providing VGM information so they should be aware of the impact of this new procedure;
- Shipper will need to provide VGM information of their containers on shipping instructions
- Shipper will need to plan for VGM in the shipment cycle
- They need to establish a process between supply chain members (forwarders, truckers, terminals and shipping line) integrating weighing service
- Shipper need to calculate the potential cost impact for arranging this service as they are legally responsible to obtain and provide VGM
- They need to be aware of possible local legislation regarding government imposed penalties/fines
- If a shipper does not comply and provide the VGM information in time the carrier and the terminal representative will not load the containers on the vessel
The IMO regulation is clear that no container shall be loaded on a vessel unless a VGM is provided- with no exceptions. It is, therefore, the terminal operator’s obligation that a VGM exists before including containers in the final stowage plan.