The International Maritime Organization (IMO), announced the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) requirements under the amendments to chapter VI of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), will become mandatory on July 1st, 2016.
SOLAS is an IMO (a United Nations specialized agency) treaty & generally regarded as the most important of all international maritime treaties concerning the safety & security of shipping & the prevention of marine pollution.
Effective from July 1st, 2016, ocean carrier vessel operators & port terminal representatives in approximately 170 countries, will be prohibited from loading cargo shipping containers aboard a vessel for export, if the container’s gross mass has not been verified.
Shippers are responsible for providing mandatory verification of the VGM for all packed cargo shipping containers, prior to tendering cargo & loading on a vessel. IMO guidelines state the Shipper is the entity or person named on the bill of lading or sea waybill. The Shipper is responsible for accurately recording, duly signing & authorizing the VGM data on the shipment documents & providing to ocean carrier vessel operators & port terminal representatives, for use in the ship stowage plans. The weighing must be done after stuffing & securing of containerized cargo in one of two approved ways as follows:
Method #1: After packing & sealing a container, the Shipper may weigh or arrange a third party to weigh the packed container using calibrated & certified equipment.
Method #2: The shipper or a third party may weigh all packages & cargo items, including the mass of pallets & other packing material securing the cargo in the shipping container, by adding the tare mass of the container to the mass sum of the cargo, using a certified method as outlined by the IMO. Any third party that has performed some or all of the packing of the container should inform the Shipper of the mass of the cargo items & packing materials that the party has packed into the container in order to facilitate the Shipper’s verification of the gross mass of the packed container.
Estimating weights of the contents of the container & adding those weights to the container’s tare weight is not permitted. Shippers cannot use weights for any cargo in a container that someone else has provided, with the exception of original, sealed packages printed with the accurate mass of the cargo items, marked by the manufacturer directly on the original packaging.
Ocean carriers have advised to use the weight given on the container, unless they have provided another method for Shippers to verify the actual tare weight for each container. It is important to note that some empty container tare weights printed on the side of the container could be incorrect, due to containers often having to be repaired or reinforced using metal.