Understanding the SOLAS Container Weight Mandate

Nelson CabreraOcean Freight, Shipping GuideLeave a Comment

Container being loading at port

As of July 1, 2016 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) which will require all shipping containers that leave from any port worldwide to have a verified gross mass (VGM) in order to be loaded onto a ship. This new rule is known as the SOLAS Container Weight Verification Requirement. The shipper is now responsible for verifying the container’s weight and every shipment must be accompanied by a document that is signed either in hard copy or electronically by the shipper.

This mandate is being implemented due to misdeclared weights contributing to maritime casualties, such as the 2007 MSC Napoli breakup and beaching on the southern coast of the U.K. and the 2015 partial feeder ship capsizing in Algeciras, a Spanish port.

How to Calculate Your Containers Weight

The shipper is responsible for weight verification. If a container is loaded onto a ship without a verified weight after July 1, 2016, it is a violation of SOLAS.

The weigh-in must be completed using one of two approved methods:

Method 1: The container must be weight after it is packed

Method 2: All the content and cargo of the container must be weighed and then those weights are added to the container’s tare weight as it is marked on the outside of the container.

No Estimates

The weight must not be estimated. It’s the shipper’s responsibility to weigh the contents of the container or the packed container itself. No matter which method is used, the equipment used to weigh the load must meet national calibration and certification requirements.

Carrier Requirements

It is admissible for a carrier to rely on the signed weight verification of the shipper as accurate. The carrier is not required to “double-check” the shipper’s verification. However, an official weight verification must be signed by an individual that legally represents the shipper.

If no VGM is provided, the container is not permitted for loading.

Quick Summary: What You Need to Know

Here’s a quick rundown of the essentials of the new SOLAS Container Weight Verification Requirements:

  • Effective July 1, 2016, the shipper is responsible for providing the carrier with verified gross mass (VGM) in a reasonable time prior to the ship being loaded on all ocean shipments worldwide
  • The VGM is cargo weight which includes packaging, dunnage, and the tare weight of the container
  • It’s the carrier’s responsibility to provide its terminal with the VGM
  • A container is defined as a standard container, tank container, flat rack ,or bulk container
  • The freight forwarder, or non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), is the shipper in relation to the carrier and is therefore responsible for providing the carrier with the VGM
  • The carrier must be given the VGM and the shipper’s signature, whether electronic or hard copy. Local or national rules may require additional documents or processes.
  • The scale used to calculate the VGM must be certified and calibrated within local and national rules
  • A VGM can be calculated using one of the two following methods:
    • The packed container is weighed
    • All of the contents of the container are weighed and the tare weight of the container is added
  • Carriers cannot load a container without having a VGM

Not adhering to the rules of the new requirement could result in fines or sanctions. It’s important to make sure that you comply with all rules locally, nationally, and globally. The new SOLAS VGM requirement was ultimately created to make the global  supply chain safer so it’s important that all players work together to create a more stable, growing economy.

Nelson Cabrera
Nelson leads global business development efforts within ShipLilly and has been featured as a logistics expert in numerous publications, including SupplyChainBrain, The Bulletin Panama, Logistics Management, and the Miami Herald.

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