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New VGM Regulations and It Implications on the Container Industry

VGM

The international Maritime Organization (IMO) has amended the safety of life at sea convention (SOLAS) to make container weigh verification to be mandatory. This requirement will be legally effective on 1st July 2016. After that date, it would be a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container onto a vessel if the carrier and terminal do not have a verified container weight.

Q1: What is NEW about the SOLAS convention?

A: what is new is that carrier and terminal operator cannot allow container to be loaded onto vessels any more unless weights are verified.

Q2: Who take the responsibility for the verified gross mass?

A: Under the SOLAS requirements, the shipper named on the ocean bill of lading is the party responsible for providing the carrier or / master and the terminal operator with the verified gross mass (VGM) of a packed container. The shipper is define as the person named on the bill of lading or sea waybill or equivalent multimodal transport document as the shipper.

Q3: What is the objective of the SOLAS requirement?

A: The VGM is required in order to prepare the stowage plan of the ship prior to loading and in order to achieve the SOLAS objective coordination must exist between shippers and carrier to ensure that the VGM is communicated and used in the ship stowage plan. The SOLAS don’t require a specific format to communicate the VGM and this is subject to any additional national requirement.

Q4: After communicating the VGM, is there any obligation under either Method on the carrier and terminal operator to verify the gross mass?

A: There is no legal obligation to check the value communicated. Both the carrier and terminal operator are not required to weigh a pack container for which the shipper has already provided the VGM. The carrier does not need to be a verifier for the shipper. However, it is important for the shipper’s weight verification to be compliant with the SOLAS requirement, to be “signed”, meaning a specific person representing the shipper is named and identified as having verified the accuracy of the weight calculation on behalf of the shipper.

Q5: How accurate does the VGM need to be considering i.e. which weighing equipment can be approved internationally?

A: The SOLAS regulations provide that verified gross mass shall be obtained under both method 1 and 2 by using weighing equipment that meets the applicable accuracy standards and requirements in the State in which the equipment is being used. Those national standards and requirements will determine the acceptable level of accuracy of the weighing equipment used. There is no single international weighing equipment accuracy at present. This matter is subject for determination by signatory States with national regulation. However, all equipment used whether for method 1 or method 2 will need to meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirement of the state in which the equipment is being used.

Q6: What are the two approved method that must be used to determine the VGM?

A: Method No.1:
After the container is loaded and sealed, the shipper may weigh, or have arranged that a third party weigh the container.

   Method No.2:
The shipper may weigh all packages and cargo items, including the weights of pallets and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and add the tare weight of the container to the sum of the single masses using a certified method.

Q7: What procedures to be followed in case of transshipment?

A: The Packed containers for which a verified weight was provided prior to loading in a preceding load port may be loaded in transshipment ports without having to have their weights re-verified if the port terminal in the transshipment port has been advised of this by the operator of the arriving vessel.

Q8: If the VGM is not sufficient to achieve safety since improper load distribution and inadequate securing cause many accidents. What can be done about that?

A: It is worth mentioned that improper distribution and inadequate securing in packed containers may result in incidence even where the gross mass have been correctly obtained and declared and in order to avoid such incidence the non mandatory international convention “ Code of Practice for Packing Cargo Transport Units ” (guidelinespackingctus/intro.html) which provides recommended and actionable guidance for the proper packing and securing cargo handling must become mandatory to address such concern.

Q9: What will happen if a discrepancy is noted between the weight provided by the shipper and the weight verified by the port authority?

A: If for any reason the packed container is weighted and a discrepancy is found between the weight provided by the shipper and the weight verified by the port authority, the weighing of the container should be resolved by the use of the verified gross mass obtained by the port terminal facility regardless to whatsoever documents and /or declaration provided by the shipper and the shipper has to amend the shipping documents accordingly and all the consequences arising should be taken by the shipper.

Q10: How will this convention be enforced?

A: The interference of the governments is highly needed in order to render the new amendments effective especially that weighing systems need to be certified and calibrated because there is no specific requirements are given by IMO. The law of each country should apply in order to create a uniform enforcement process to make sure containers are weighed in either of the two accepted methods, Container lines, terminal operators and other involved in the handling of cargo also need to make sure their operations comply with the new rule and to ensure easy submission of the VGM for their customer.

Q11: What’s Eldib opinion of the SOLAS convention?

We think that the SOLAS convention shows a lot of advantages for both shipper and carrier, it is no doubt that it will help in the safety of vessel, the safety of workers both aboard ships and ashore, stowage decisions, the safety of cargo and overall safety at sea.

We Eldib pandi have previously dealt with a case where the reason of damages sustained to a container was due to false weight declaration by the shipper. The declared weight was 30.48 tons while the max weight of the container was 24000 kg and apparently, no checking was made to compare the container’s gross tonnage capacity with the actual gross tonnage based on the cargo stuffed inside the container.

torn container

We trust that the new procedure set by the IMO will aim to terminate the problem of weight discrepancy and will help in reducing the problems arising from this mode of transport.

Legally speaking the SOLAS convention would also have a huge impact on reducing shortage claim after obliging the shipper to verify the gross weight as a condition for loading cargo onto a ship for export and will avert any discrepancy between the shipper declaration in the bill of lading and the loaded cargo.

Although one of the international problem affecting consumers and businesses alike is Cargo theft. We believe that the SOLAS convention would help in reducing robbers attacking merchants on trading roads between the shippers’ stores and the port especially when it comes to replace the cargo with other products that might be heavier or lighter. In such a case if the shipper is required to know and report the weight of the container before loading it into the vessel that will decrease the carrier’s responsibility because the theft cargo wasn’t yet in his responsibility.

Our team is totally aware of the new regulation and its objectives as we have previously experienced many cases that dealt with the importance of a verified weight declared and if you seek assistance please contact us mail@eldibpandi.com and we are ready to assist.