SOLAS effective 1st July 2016 : ocean container weights will need to be verified by exporters before loading on to an ocean vessel
Effective July 1st 2016, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is enforcing the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and new regulations will be in effect for shippers to report the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of container. The main purpose of the VGM regulations is to make sure accurate cargo and container weights are used for ship loading purposes. Essentially all shippers and manufacturers are strongly encouraged to ensure they declare accurate shipment weights and have adequate, calibrated and serviced weighing equipment for both FCL and LCL shipments. Without a VGM containers will not be shipped by shipping lines.
What does this mean for exporters and shippers?
It will be a requirement for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that the container has a verified gross mass weight (VGM). The shipper (listed as “shipper” on the bill of lading/sea waybill) will be responsible for the verification of the packed container’s weight, together with an authorised signature, and to provide this to the carrier in reasonable time prior to the vessel being loaded.
What is a container VGM?
The VGM consists of cargo weight including packaging and dunnage (securing) materials and the tare weight of the container.
2 methods to determine VGM:
1. Weigh the packed/laden container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment.
2. Weigh all packages, packaging, including pallets, dunnage material and securing material and add those weights to the tare weight of the container (shown on the outside of the container door) using a certified method approved by the UK ‘Maritime & Coastguard Agency’ (MCA).
For further info please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/verification-of-the-gross-mass-of-packed-containers-by-sea.
Method 1 can be arranged by the shipper on a weighbridge but is not specifically practical for shippers after containers are live loaded at their premises unless they are geared up for high frequency of container exports.
For method 2, shippers must apply to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency to become a ‘certified shipper’. Any trade looking to do this must submit an application by e-mail to email@example.com. Currently this is only open to companies that have weighing and calibration processes established as per Annex 3 of UK National FAQ sheet 1st June 2016 on the above government link. If this is not possible method 1 can only be used to supply the VGM.
The VGM is required by the line and port operator 24 hours prior to vessel arrival (a buffer of 248 hours is suggested in the first 3 months during early ‘teething’ stages).
It is possible for shippers to provide a certified VGM through electronic messaging prior to arrival at the port if preferred, EDI connections or email.
Will you be able to weigh containers at the port of loading?
Shipping lines and all major UK port operators appear to have finally concluded they will offer a weighing service under method 1 at the UKs main ports of loading and found common ground. There will be a charge for this, currently rumoured to start around £25 before other line administration charges (subject to further development). As this develops the information will become available.
EFS held back from providing information about SOLAS until logical solutions were found, the main ports in the last few weeks now confirming they will offer container weighing services at their terminals. We feel the port based solution to be the best option for obtaining VGM’s:
- Equipment is calibrated and monitored by the MCA on site
- VGM determined at port terminal will automatically be transmitted to the carrier – less chance of miss-communication / mislaid data
- Subsequently, delays in shipments or fines for incorrect declarations are minimalized.
We expect newer ports with weigh cell equipment on loading cranes to be able to adopt & execute this new requirement without much delay or disruption, however at more established ports where a weigh bridge is used it could be extra lead times need to be built into containers being delivered to the port to connect on to export vessels to accommodate queues & additional waiting times caused by this new requirement.