From July 1st 2016 container weights will need to be verified by exporters and shippers before loading onto a vessel. Effective from July 1st 2016, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has amended the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and new rules will be in effect for shippers to report the verified gross mass (VGM) of containers. The weights determined in this way will be used shipping lines for the stowage on the container ships.
What does this mean for exporters and shippers?
It will be a requirement for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that the container has a verified gross mass weight (VGM). The shipper (listed as shipper in the bill of lading or sea waybill) will be responsible for the verification of the packed container’s weight, together with an authorised signature, and to provide this to the carrier in reasonable time prior to vessel loading.
These requirements will apply to both FCL and LCL shipments.
How do you determine the VGM of a container?
The VGM consists of cargo weight including packaging and dunnage (securing) materials and tare weight of container.
This can be worked out by two methods:
1. Weigh the packed/laden container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment
2. Weigh all packages, packaging, including pallets, dunnage material and securing material and add those weights to the tare weight of the container (shown on the container’s exterior) or by using a certified method approved by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
Shippers can apply to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency to become a regulated shipper to use method 2. All trade looking to do this must submit an application to become a ‘Verified Weigher’ by e-mail to email@example.com. The deadline to do this for beginning of July is Wednesday15th June.
This application should be submitted along with the supporting documents and procedures as detailed in the checklist and guidelines published here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/verification-of-the-gross-mass-of-packed-containers-by-sea.
Currently this is only open to companies that are ISO 9001 accredited who have weighing and calibration processes established. If this is not possible method 1 could be used to supply the VGM.
What will happen if a container does not have a VGM?
This requirement will become legally effective on July 1st 2016. After that date, it would be a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container onto a vessel if the operator and marine terminal operator do not have a verified container weight. Consequently shipping lines and the vessel master will not load containers onto vessels from 1st July without a VGM.
There may also be legislated enforcement agencies to implement measures to check compliance, such as documentation checks, weighing tickets and random weighing. Penalties could include fines, repacking costs, admin fees, demurrage and delays or cancellations of shipments.
Will you be able to weigh containers at the port of discharge?
Shipping lines and port operators are currently in discussions as to how they will offer a weighing service under method 1.
DP World’s press team said that “After extensive consultations with the Maritime Coastguard Agency, both DP World London Gateway and DP World Southampton will implement scalable solutions to weigh containers shortly after arrival in the port and provide the VGM.”
The Port of Felixstowe has also recently confirmed they will be offering a weighing service and it is possible that LCL operators and consolidators will also be offering a similar service.
There is no doubt that a weighing cost will be involved with these weighing services.
BIFA advise that should a shipper provide their own VGM there is no requirement on the Port Terminal Operator to check weigh the container.
DP World said: “It will still be possible for shippers to provide a certified VGM through electronic messaging prior to arrival at the port if preferred.”
We are awaiting further clarification of what methods can be used to submit the VGM prior to port arrival.