Dear Valued Client

The IMO has amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to require, as a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that the container has a verified gross weight.  The SOLAS convention is applicable global law.  The shipper is responsible for the verification of the packed container’s weight.   This requirement will become effective on July 1, 2016.  The shipper is defined as the legal entity on the bill of lading named as the shipper and is the party who contracted with the carriage company.  The shipper may delegate the actual verification to a 3rd party.  For example, a weighing facility at an inland depot or at a terminal.  The shipper still bears the responsibility for the VGM if contracted out.

There are two acceptable methods of obtaining the weight.

1.       Weighing- The container is weighed after it has been completely packed and sealed.  This can be completed by the shipper or by a third party contractor.  Scales, weighbridge, lifting equipment or other devices must meet the accuracy standards of the state it is being used in.

2.       Calculating- All packages may be weighed individually (including the mass of pallets, dunnage and any packing and securing material) and added to the tare weight of the container that is visible on the exterior of the container.   Weighing equipment must meet the accuracy standards of the state it is being used in.

The VGM must be part of a shipping document.   This document can be part of the booking request or the shipping instructions, or it can be communicated separately.  In whatever format is chosen, the document should clearly highlight that the gross mass provided is a VGM.  The VGM must be signed by a person duly authorized by the shipper.  The VMG verification must be submitted sufficiently in advance of vessel loading to be used to prepare the ship’s stowage plan.  Carriers will provide shipper’s with cut off times which will vary from carrier to carrier and port to port.  There is not a mandated form for communication of the VGM.  The information to be provided by the shipper is the verified gross mass of the packed container, conspicuously identified as such, signed and dated by the shipper or a person duly authorized by the shipper.

A container without a VGM will not be loaded onto a vessel until the VGM is obtained. The shipper will be responsible for any costs that arise including but not limited to weighing costs, repacking and administrative costs.  Some cargo products may incur normal, minor changes in weight from the time of packing until delivery due to evaporation, ice melt etc and some containers tare weight may change over time and vary from the tare weight painted on the container (ex due to wet floors) but these variations should not present safety concerns.

For more information please visit the World Shipping Councils FAQ page on VGM at www.worldshipping.org/industry-issues/safety/faqs