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In November 2014, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted mandatory amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter VI, Part A, Regulation 2 - Cargo information.

The SOLAS amendments become effective on 1 July 2016 for packed containers received for transportation (gate-in or off-rail).

Main reason for the change is that there is currently no rule or process to ensure that the weight being provided for loading is accurate, leading to huge risks to workforce, vessels, terminals and equipment.

Immediate consequences for the shipper are that as of 1st July 2016, the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) weight of every container needs to be provided to the carrier, before the VGM cut-off date. Furthermore, it will be the shipper’s responsibility to ensure that the accurate weight, and not an ‘estimated’ weight, is being provided.

If no Verified Gross Mass weight has been provided, the shipping line will not accept to load the container on the vessel;

The new regulations prescribe two methods by which the shipper can obtain the verified gross mass of a packed container:

  • Method 1: Weigh the packed container.
  • Method 2: Weigh the cargo and the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing materials and add tare mass of the container.

The weighing equipment used for both method 1 and 2 must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the state in which the equipment is being used.

Shippers will be required to issue and transmit a VGM document containing the following information:

  • Full details of the Shipper (on Shipper letterhead)
  • Shipment ref # (booking, po number)
  • Container number and seal number
  • VGM weight in kgs
  • Date of declaration
  • Name of authorized person
  • Signature of authorized person