New SOLAS Container Weight Verification Requirement- VGM - January 15, 2016

To improve safety in the supply chain, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention indicating that all shippers must comply with mandatory container weight verification requirements, or Verified Gross Mass (VGM), effective July 1, 2016.

Currently the industry is in ongoing discussions with many regulatory authorities and stakeholders to ascertain the implementation details and policies on such requirements as well as to ensure that process and system readiness for compliance is in order before the effective date.

China is one example where national policies are still a work in progress to meet the SOLAS Convention’s new VGM requirements while addressing concerns, such as operational costs, from the shipping community. Its implementation is entrusted to the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) under the Ministry of Transportation and we will keep customers posted on the latest developments in the months ahead.

Principle

 “No VGM, No loading.” A container without a VGM is not allowed to load onto the vessel. 

Terminals observing the SOLAS Convention and/or local regulatory requirements will reject containers at the gate if no VGM is provided. The shipper is responsible for the potential regulatory penalties and all costs associated to the exception handling of the containers without the VGM.

What?

    VGM is the total gross mass of a packed container which includes the cargo weight, block & bracing materials and container tare. The SOLAS Convention offers two methods to obtain the VGM:

Method No. 1 – Weighing

Weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment

Method No. 2 - Calculating

  The sum of the single masses = Mass of cargo items + all packages (pallets, dunnage, securing material packed in the container) + container tare mass  as certified and approved by the national authorized body

Note: it is inappropriate and impractical to adopt Method No. 2 for Scrap metal, unbagged grain and other cargo in bulk.

  If a container with a gross mass exceeding its maximum permitted limit (the maximum payload) as indicated on the Safety Approval Plate under the International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC), the container will NOT be loaded onto a ship even with the proper VGM documentation.

Who?

  The responsibility for obtaining and documenting the VGM of a packed container lies with the shipper shown on the Ocean Carrier Bill of Lading.

  The shipper is responsible to provide the VGM to the ocean carrier and/or port terminal in order to meet the SOLAS and local regulatory requirements and/or specific port terminal procedures where applicable.

When?

  The new SOLAS requirements will be effective on July 1, 2016.

The shipper must ensure that the VGM is provided sufficiently in advance for use by the ship master and the terminal representative towards the ship stowage plan.

  The VGM CUT-OFF time will be advised in the form of a Booking Confirmation once available.

We anticipate the VGM CUT-OFF times will vary from one country to another and it is important to observe that:

  Many national authorities are still reviewing how best to facilitate the implementation of the new SOLAS requirements in their country.

  Various ports and terminals are also reviewing the appropriate time frame by which the VGM must be received in order to allow for safe stowage planning and smooth yard operation.

Where?

Applicable to all IMO Member States.

Transshipment handling at the ports of IMO Member States must also have the VGM available. Shippers are requested to communicate the VGM to OOCL before the 1st loading port to avoid any transshipment delays and costs.

How?

Shippers can declare the VGM together with the shipping instructions or separately through other channels.

OOCL highly encourages shippers to provide the information through electronic means and we will publish details and guidelines on this communication method at a later date.

VGM should be signed by either the shipper or a person duly authorized by the shipper. Electronic or e-signatures are also acceptable.