SOLAS Verified Gross Mass (VGM) Container Weight Implementation Notice

Dear Valued Cargo Spectrum Customer:

As announced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), 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.

The SOLAS Convention is a treaty of the IMO (a United Nations specialized agency) & widely regarded as the most important of all international maritime treaties concerning the safety & security of shipping & the prevention of marine pollution. The first version was adopted in 1914 in response to the Titanic disaster to ensure ships comply with minimum safety standards in construction, equipment & operation. The IMO is tasked with maintaining a comprehensive framework of rules for the carriage of cargo by sea to safeguard the ship, its container cargo, its workers (both aboard & ashore) & all marine life.

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, 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 called Method #1 & Method #2, 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. 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.

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 being 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 VGM 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 VGM 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.

Drayage carriers are not responsible for meeting this requirement, however they should understand the new regulations to avoid their trucks & containers being turned away by the port terminal representatives.

To comply with the global implementation of the new requirements, varying VGM-related policies & practices will be adopted by port terminals, including but not limited to:

  • If the port terminal adopts the “No VGM, No Gate-In” policy
  • If the port terminal provides an on-site certified weighing service
  • Tolerance limits allowed by the local authority for weight discrepancies (if any)
  • VGM submission cut-off deadlines

Contact Cargo Spectrum for more information about the SOLAS verified gross mass (VGM) mandatory weight verification of containers requirements. We are committed to keeping our customers informed on any progress or changes in the implementation of this new regulation. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Cargo Spectrum via phone at 1.888.273.5575 or via email at peterb@cargospectrum.com or sergeys@cargospectrum.com.

Thank-you for choosing Cargo Spectrum. We greatly appreciate your business & continued support.


The Cargo Spectrum Team

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