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Are You Ready for the New Weight Regulations from the IMO?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted mandatory amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The SOLAS convention is applicable globally and it will affect every loaded export container on the planet.

The SOLAS amendments become effective on July 1, 2016 for packed containers received for transportation (gate-in or off-rail). They place a requirement on the shipper of a packed container, regardless of who packed the container, to authenticate and provide the container’s Verified Gross Mass (VGM) to the ocean carrier and port terminal representatives prior to it being loaded on a ship.

The VGM is a strict condition for loading a packed container aboard a vessel for export. The vessel operator and the terminal operator are required to use VGMs in vessel stowage plans and they are prohibited from loading a packed container aboard a vessel for export if the container does not have a VGM.

The Shipper named on the ocean bill of lading or sea waybill is responsible for providing the ocean carrier and the terminal operator with the VGM of a packed container.

Verifying the gross mass of a container carrying cargo can be completed by either weighing the completely packed container or calculating the weight of all packages and cargo items individually, including mass of dunnage, packing and securing materials, and adding those weights to the tare of the container.

Reporting Format

SOLAS does not mandate any particular form for providing VGM information. The information of the VGM of the packed container should be conspicuously identified as such and must be part of a shipping document (booking request or shipping instruction) or communicated separately (e.g. declaration including a weight certificate). The document declaring the VGM must be signed by the Shipper or a person duly authorized by the Shipper. The VGM and signature may be transmitted electronically.

In addition, there is no firm deadline set for providing the VGM to the Carrier prior to shipment, but the VGM is required in order to prepare the stowage plan of the ship prior to loading. Without exception, it always remains the responsibility of the Shipper that the carrier and terminal operator receive the information within a reasonable time period.

What if the VGM is Missing?

SOLAS imposes an obligation on the carrier and the terminal operator not to load a packed container aboard a ship without a VGM for that container. Non-compliance with this obligation may result in commercial and operational penalties, such as delayed shipment and additional costs if the Shipper has not provided the VGM to the carrier and terminal operator.

The penalties may involve repacking costs, administration fees for amending documents, demurrage charges, delayed or cancelled shipments, etc. Enforcement and “policing” of the VGM rules are the responsibility of the local state (government) authorities, responsible for maritime affairs (e.g. Coast Guard in the U.S., Maritime & Coastguard Agency in the U.K., etc.)

Avoid costly delays. Make sure your organization is ready before July 1, 2016. Please refer to the links below to the World Shipping Council website, which provide more detailed background and information.

WSC IMO SOLAS Container Weight Verification Requirement

WSC Verified Gross Mass Industry FAQs

Last modified: 25.01.2017

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