SOLAS VGM Requirements Effective July 1, 2016

The SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Convention is a treaty of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency, tasked with maintaining a comprehensive framework of rules for carriage by sea, ensuring the overall safety of the ship, the workers (aboard & ashore) & the container cargo.

On July 1, 2016, SOLAS requires that packed shipping containers gross mass are verified prior to being loaded aboard a ship for export. The Shipper is responsible for the verification of the gross mass of a cargo container. According to IMO guidelines, the Shipper is the entity or person named on the bill of lading or sea waybill. The Shipper is responsible for recording the verified gross mass (VGM) in the shipment documents, having the documents signed by someone duly authorized by the Shipper & provided to the ocean carrier vessel operators & port terminal representatives to be used in the ship stowage plans.

In the absence of the Shipper providing the verified gross mass of the packed container, the container should not be loaded on to the ship unless the ocean carrier vessel operators & port terminal representatives have obtained the verified gross mass through other means. Drayage carriers are not responsible for meeting this requirement, however it is important they understand the new regulations to ensure customer compliance & to avoid trucks & containers being turned away by the port terminal representatives.

The weighing must be done after stuffing & securing of containerized cargo in one of two approved ways called Method 1 & Method 2. Either the total container weight must be verified & documented by the Shipper prior to tendering cargo by weighing the packed container using calibrated & certified equipment, or by weighing all packages & cargo items (including pallets, dunnage etc.) & adding the tare mass of the container to the mass sum of the cargo, using an approved certified method. Of course, it has always been the responsibility of the Shipper to provide an accurate declared weight for cargo, however the new obligation is to ensure the weight is verified using one of the two methods, i.e. provided by certified weighing equipment under Method 1 or use a certified method for summing individual cargo under Method 2.

Estimating weights of the contents of the container & adding those weights to the container’s tare weight is not permitted. The weighing equipment must meet certification & calibration requirements & 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.

Each steamship line is required to provide verified gross mass procedures & documents to Shippers, however not all carriers have made this information available as yet. At this point, Steamship lines have advised to use the weight given on the container, unless they have provided another method where Shippers can verify the actual tare weight for each container. It is important to note that some empty container tare weight printed on the side of the container could be incorrect, due to containers being kept for long periods of time & often having to be repaired or reinforced using metal.

Port of Metro Vancouver’s Centerm container terminal will be offering container weighing services using their dockside scales as of June 2016. The fee for shipping containers that arrive at this terminal without the verified gross mass data required under new IMO regulations has been set at $245 for the service. Deltaport (Canada’s largest container terminal) & Vanterm have not yet installed scales at either terminal & will not be offering container weighing services at this time. Currently, there are very few government-certified weighing stations, which could make it logistically impossible to weigh all the containers arriving without verified gross mass data.

Transport Canada penalties for violating the new weight verification requirements will range from $600 to $12,000 per infraction. However, Transport Canada has not yet offered significant guidance on what will constitute calibrated & certified equipment for method 1, nor on what will be the approved certified method for summing gross weights under method 2.

Cargo Spectrum is committed to keeping our customers informed on any progress or changes in the implementation of this new regulation. Contact Cargo Spectrum for more information about the SOLAS verified gross mass (VGM) requirements. Need more details or have any questions about Air Cargo, Ocean Shipping or Ground Transport? Our Cargo Spectrum representatives are here to help. Call us on 1.888.273.5575 | Request a Quote | Email us at info@cargospectrum.com. Learn more about Cargo Spectrum.