On July 1st, 2016 the SOLAS Convention (Safety of life at Sea Convention), as amended by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), came into effect. Since then, it has been illegal for shipping lines to ship a container without a verified weight. There are no exceptions to this rule.
The shipper as mentioned in the Bill of Lading is fully responsible for the verification of the weight as well as the issue of the VGM (Verified Gross Mass) document. This Amendment will nonetheless require freight forwarders, terminal operators and vessel operators to establish new policies and procedures to ensure its implementation.
To obtain its VGM, the shipper (or a third party, acting on behalf of the shipper) is provided with two possible methods to determine the container weight.
The first method entails weighing the container after packing and sealing. The second involves weighing all packages and cargo items separately, including all packing materials, and adding the tare mass of the container itself, as indicated on the door end of the container.
To be in compliance with the SOLAS Amendement, the VGM document must be signed by an authorised person representing the shipper. The document must contain the following information:
- Identification of the shipper
- Name of the authorised person
- Date of the declaration
- VGM weight in kgs
- Container number and seal number
Should a container not have a VGM, it will not be loaded onto the ongoing vessel until the document is received. The general consensus is that in that case the container will still be accepted into the terminal. Marine Terminals and Carriers will therefore have to agree upon a procedure to handle these situations.