The amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter VI, Part A, Regulation 2 — Cargo information, effective July 1, 2016, requires shippers to verify the gross mass of a container prior to loading it onto a ship.
With only five months left to comply, there are still a few in the industry asking who is ultimately responsible for determining the Verified container Gross Mass (VGM).
The immediate answer was that the port is where the weighing and weight verification should occur, since it is the last stop. However, this is already far too late in the supply chain, will possibly cause bottleneck at the port, and is not aligned with the mantra of this legislation. Safety does not only apply to the voyage but also during transport on roads.
The responsibility ultimately lies on the shipper. They bear the responsibility of obtaining the Verified Container Gross Mass and forwarding this information to relevant parties.
Ports and ship masters can only plan safely according to figures and documentation supplied to them. This means that ports do not need to prepare for the IMO/SOLAS container weight verification law; their important part, in relation to the legislation, is ensuring the proper stowage plan based on container weight information.
“As early as now, it is valuable for shippers to select the best suitable weighing solution that they can stick with for the long-term.”
Container Weighing: Who is Ultimately Responsible for Verified Gross Mass?
Who is the shipper?
The term shipper is used to refer to a legal entity or person indicated on the bill of lading or sea waybill or its equivalent transport document as ‘shipper’ and/or who (or on whose behalf or in whose name) the contract of the carriage has been concluded with indicated shipping company.
In simpler terms, the shipper is the sender of the goods, regardless of whether or not someone else moves the freight on their behalf.
Which countries are affected by this legislation?
All contracting states, including countries such as Australia, United States, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, France, Russia, Germany, India, and Saudi Arabia, are bound to comply. The complete list of SOLAS signatories can be found here.
How can the shipper obtain and declare a Verified Container Gross Mass?
It is worth iterating that the SOLAS legislation will not allow any form of estimation of container weight, and failure to provide a verified container weight will prevent containers from being loaded onto the ship.
Each container weighing option has its own set of costs, advantages, and disadvantages, which makes it valuable for shippers to, as early as now, select the best suitable weighing solution that they can stick to for the long-term.
The safest and most practical option is one that enables the shipper to weigh and resolve container weight issues while it is still at the point of packing. Solutions like this include:
- On-demand 3rd party container weighing service provider with approved, calibrated equipment that can weigh laden containers onsite (Method 1 Option)
- Container loader that can weigh all items for loading in a single shot (Method 2 Option)
What happens if the shipper does not get the container weight verified?
“Without the provision of the packed container’s verified gross mass from the shipper with sufficient time to create the ship storage plan, the container will not be loaded onto the ship — with the exception of the master or the terminal representative being able to obtain the verified weight through other approved means.”
The port acts as the gatekeeper between unverified containers and the vessel. No verified container gross mass means no loading of the container onto the ship. This is never an ideal scenario.
With the July 1, 2016 fast approaching, we must ensure that those held responsible by this legislation, the shippers, have the necessary tools and knowledge so that obtaining a Verified Container Gross Mass for their freight is simple, smooth, and non-disruptive.
Using Method 1? Find out your Method 1 options here:
Or using Method 2? Explore container weighing options here:
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