SOLAS Convention initiation (Safety Of Life At Sea) 1st of July 2016 – VGM (Verification of Gross Mass) Container Weight Implementation

With less than six months to go before the implementation of the SOLAS VGM (verified gross mass) regulations for accurate declaration of ALL shipping containers globally, the freight forwarding and shipping market is full of confusion and misunderstanding over the new procedures and how it will affect us all, including our customers.

The scheme, in a nutshell is designed to avoid any injury or damage caused by mis-declaration of container weight for all global container movements, in theory a good idea, but in practice the industry, including ocean carriers and freight forwarders alike, are having problems implementing effective solutions to make it viable.

At Mercator Cargo we have been aware of the upcoming changes for some time, and have been working with carriers and professional associations to be ready for the start date.

The scheme offers two choices for declaring the correct container weight:

  • Packed/Loaded containers to be weighed using calibrated and certified equipment (such as weighbridges)
  • Weighing all packages, cargo, dunnage and packing materials, again using certified equipment and adding to the container tare (weight) of the unladen container.

Both of these options have obvious flaws.

The lack of public or indeed any weighbridges in the UK is a huge problem, and finding one is also an issue, it would be most useful if a list of them was published, and made easily accessible to use for option 1.

Calibrated equipment is the flaw in option 2 – how can any agent, freight forwarder or carrier be sure that the equipment is calibrated and certified and is correct.

At the time of writing I must say I have huge reservations about this, and I am not alone.  Of the carriers I have spoken with, most of them have no idea how they are going to comply with these terms, and it seems unlikely to change in the near future.

And the UK is fortunate that most export containers that are loaded are certainly within ballpark figures of being correct in terms of weight.  However other countries such as India and China, who are two of the biggest global players, are notorious for mis-declaration of weight, we ourselves had one shipping container of stone imported from India declared as 25,000kgs but was in-fact over 35,000kgs!

How will countries with even worse infrastructure than us in the UK cope with these regulations? It remains to be seen, and I am sure this will not be the final blog I write on the subject!

The FAQ’s about the change can be viewed here: VGM FAQ

If you have any questions please email or call +44 2392 756 575


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