Starting from July 1st 2016 it will be a legal requirement for all export containers to have a verified weight. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) so that the shipper is responsible for the verification of the packed containers weight. After July 1st 2016 it will be a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container onto a vessel if the vessel operator and marine terminal operator do not have a verified container weight. (Known as VGM – Verified Gross Mass)
The regulations place a requirement on the shipper of a packed container, regardless of who packed the container, to provide the container’s gross verified weight to the vessel and terminal operators sufficiently in advance of vessel loading to be used in the preparation of the stowage plan. (IMO circular 1475 available on request).
The vessel operator and the terminal operator will be required to use verified container weights in vessel stowage plans and will be prohibited from loading a packed container on board a vessel if the container does not have a verified container weight.
The SOLAS amendments provide that there are two methods shippers may use to determine the container weight once the container packing process has taken place, these are:
- Weighing the container after it has been packed or;
- Weighing all the cargo and contents of the container, including dunnage and securing equipment, and adding those weights to the container’s tare weight as indicated on the door end of the container.
Under either weighing method, the weighing equipment used must meet national certification and calibration requirements. Further, the party packing the container cannot use the weight somebody else has provided, except when “Individual, original sealed packages that have the accurate mass of the packages and cargo items (including any other material such as packing material and refrigerants inside the packages) clearly and permanently marked on their surfaces, do not need to be weighed again when they are packed into the container.”
Can a container be loaded without a Verification Certificate?
The lack of a signed weight verification certificate can be remedied by weighing the packed container at the port. However, in the event that a terminal does not possess the means to verify the weight of the container, alternative means must be found in order to obtain a verified container weight; otherwise, the packed container may not be loaded on to the ship.
The regulations making container weight verification mandatory for all vessels before loading will enter into force on 1 July 2016.