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SOLAS – Container Weight Verification

Starting July 1, 2016 the container weight verification requirement as outlined by the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) will begin being enforced.

Here is what you need to know as a shipper:

A packed container, for which the verified gross mass has not been obtained, will not be loaded. While the U.S. Coast Guard has indicated, they have no power to force compliance from shippers that does not mean shippers can ignore the rule. This amendment to the rule is ultimately a requirement on the ship to ensure it complies with international safety rules. The reason is that for a carrier to accept a shipment without VGM would leave the ship out of compliance with rules and its insurers leaving it vulnerable to liability in the event of an accident.

The responsibility for obtaining and documenting the VGM of a packed container lies with the shipper.

VGM means the total gross mass of a packed container. One of the two methods described below can obtain VGM:

  • Method # 1 – Using calibrated and certified equipment, the shipper or a third party duly appointed by the shipper weighs the packed container at the end of loading, and seal affixed.
  • Method # 2 – The shipper or a third party, appointed by the shipper, weighs all packages, cargo, items, pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material and adds the tare mass of the container, tare Mass is often located on the door of the container.

Method # 2 seems to be the most common method we are seeing used to verify VGM. Weighing cargo as it is being loaded can save time and money as well. However if Method # 2 is not an option for you, please allow plenty of time for the dray-men to weigh the empty and loaded container. Not only does this add additional costs it adds time as well. Please factor time and costs when using Method # 1 for VGM. If overweight or over axel weight the container will be brought back to your loading facility for adjustment. This could cause a shipper to miss the rail/port cut and miss the intended vessel.iStock_000065464399_Medium

When it comes to “Margin of error,” SOLAS does not provide a margin of error in the guidelines released June 9, 2014.

Shippers should also not expect the US ports and terminals to offer support. Several U.S. ports are refusing to offer container-weighing services for shippers. Oakland, LA-Long Beach and Virginia Port Authority to name a few said they would not accept containers without VGM whether they are moving by truck or intermodal rail. Port of New York and New Jersey have said that without EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) containers would not be allowed through its gates.

The US Congress is also looking into the impact of the SOLAS container weight rule. A house subcommittee will hear from opponent of the IMO’s rule on April 14th. This will be the first time the issue will come front and center on Capitol Hill. The hope from US Exporters is to see if Congress can determine if SOLAS can be revoked or revised. Details of this hearing will follow as details are released.

Held & Associates will continue to monitor this situation and will keep you closely advised.