As you may be aware, amendments to the International Convention for the Safety Of Life At Sea (“SOLAS”), will go into effect globally on July 1, 2016.
The recent amendment, which was adopted by International Maritime Organization (IMO) Member States, requires that a shipper verify the gross mass (Verified Gross Mass or VGM) of a container’s cargo/contents to the underlying carrier and terminal operator. While carriers, terminals and shippers alike will be affected by the new rules, the burden will primarily rest with shippers to provide the VGM.
Without a VGM, the amendments prohibit the vessel operator from loading a packed container.
As stated, from July 1st, the weight of the container and the cargo contained therein must be documented. Estimated weights are not allowed.
There are two options permissible in determining the weight or Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of the cargo and container.
They are as follows:
Method 1: Weighing
After it has been completely packed and sealed, the container can be weighed. The weighing can be performed by the shipper or by a third party contracted by the shipper (please refer to Chapter 5.11 of the SOLAS guideline).
Any scale, weighbridge, lifting equipment or other devices used to verify the gross mass of the container must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the state in which the equipment is being used (please refer to Chapter 2.1 of the SOLAS guideline).
Method 2: Calculating
All packages and cargo items may be weighed individually (including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material) and must be added to the tare of the container visible on the exterior of the container (please refer to Chapter 5.1.2 of the SOLAS guideline).
The method used for weighing the container’s content is subject to the certification an approval as determined by the competent authority of the state in which the packing and sealing of the container were completed (please refer to Chapter 188.8.131.52 of the SOLAS guideline).
Any weighing equipment used to weigh the contents of the container must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the state in which the equipment is being used (please refer to Chapter 2.1 of the SOLAS guideline).
There is currently no single document uniformly determined to be acceptable to verify the weight. Rather, the information can come via a weight certificate, separate documentation, or part of the shipping instructions.The amendment states that “irrespective of its form,” the document declaring the VGM should be signed by a person duly authorized by the shipper.
For shipper loaded FCL containers, JAS Forwarding requires a VGM from the shipper. Upon request, JAS Forwarding can have the container and content weighed at an outside weigh station.
Unless JAS Forwarding arranged the weighing of the container or have a weight certificate from an independent authority, JAS Forwarding will require a VGM certification from the shipper prior to the carrier VGM cut off. The VGM cut off will be provided by the carrier at the time of booking.
JAS Forwarding, unless otherwise notified in writing, will ensure that the VGM is communicated to the carrier by one of the following methods:
The carrier itself is not obliged to cross-check the VGM received. Independent of the party verifying and sending the VGM, it remains in the responsibility of the shipper that the carrier and terminal operator receive the information in time.
Once the Ocean Carrier receives the VGM, the Shipper’s responsibilities are complete.
It is unclear yet what stance of the various Ports and Terminals will take globally. Some have announced that they will not accept containers into the terminal unless a VGM has already been submitted. Some have announced that they will accept containers but will be unable to weigh them and others have confirmed that they upon request, they will be able to weigh the container.
However, what is clear is that if the VGM is not received by the VGM cut off, the container cannot be loaded on to the vessel.
As we get closer to the deadline, and industry groups coalesce into creating common forms, we will provide the documentation for the shipper’s certification.
Where can relevant documents be found? (links)
a) Official SOLAS guideline
b) Status of national legislations
c) Guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo
d) Guidelines for improving safety and implementing the SOLAS container weight verification requirements
Executive Vice President of Operations
JAS Worldwide Management Inc.