containers stacked on dock - solas verified gross mass (VGM) container weight verificationTo improve maritime safety and mitigate risks to the safety and security of the crew, ship, and cargo, the IMO recently adopted amendments to the International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requiring mandatory weight verification for packed containers being loaded onto vessels. Effective July 1, 2016, all shippers must provide the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of packed containers to ocean carriers prior to loading. Without the VGM provided on a signed shipping document, carriers and terminals will not be allowed to load the containers.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) sets the global standards for the safety and security of the international shipping industry. Its mandate is to provide a regulatory framework that covers all aspects of international shipping, including the stability and safe operations of ships as well as the safe handling, packing and transport of containers. Investigations into several major maritime accidents over the past decade have determined that overweight containers played a key role in the incidents.

Overview of SOLAS Verified Gross Mass (VGM) Guidelines

The following provides a brief overview of the SOLAS VGM guidelines:

  • VGM requirements come into effect on July 1, 2016.
  • The shipper named on the Ocean Bill of Lading is responsible for submitting the VGM
  • The VGM must be verified by signature of an authorized representative of the shipper
  • Equipment used to calculate the VGM must meet national certification and calibration standards
  • Estimating weight is not permitted
  • Ocean carriers/terminals will not load containers without the VGM
  • Enforcement of VGM rules falls under the aegis of local governmental agencies responsible for maritime affairs (e.g. Transport Canada)

Calculating the VGM

SOLAS guidelines provide two methods for calculating the VGM:

Method 1: Weighing the Packed Container

After packing and sealing a container the shipper may weigh the container or arrange for a third party to weigh the packed container.

Method 2: Calculating Cargo + Dunnage + Tare

The shipper (or third party arranged by the shipper) may weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses of the container’s contents.

For More Information

Transport Canada has issued a Ship Safety Bulletin regarding the new VGM regulations and published the Canadian Procedure for Obtaining the Verified Gross Mass of Packed Containers as Required by SOLAS VI/2.

PF Collins is working closely with governmental agencies, carriers, and our global supply network to ensure compliant implementation of the SOLAS guidelines and to ensure our clients remain informed of further developments.

Contact your local PF Collins office for more information on SOLAS or any other shipping related matter.