Misdeclaration of cargo weight is a major hazard, which often results in cargo claims, structural damages to vessels and also poses a significant risk to the lives of staff.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention (Chapter VI, part A, regulation 2), that requires packed containers’ gross mass to be verified prior to stowage aboard ship.
As from July 1st 2016 this regulation, effective as global law, prohibits loading of a packed container in absence of the verified gross mass (VGM). This applies to all packed containers which are to be loaded to a vessel under SOLAS regime in international maritime traffic.
VGM reporting is the sole responsibility of the shipper named in the original BL who may nominate a third party to perform this function on his behalf.
HOW DOES THIS WORK IN PRACTICE FOR SHIPPERS?
The regulation stipulates the use of two approved methods to declare the VGM for each container by the shipper or his representative. SOLAS regulation for weighing containers allows two ways for weighing packed containers in order to obtain the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for each container by the shipper or his representative.
After stuffing of container, the container is weighed on a calibrated/certified weight bridge. Reported result incl. container tare weight to be submitted to Martin Bencher who will inform the shipping line accordingly.
Shipper either weighs each individual cargo item including packing material, adds the tare weight of the container which is displayed at container door. Sum result with VGM to be submitted to Martin Bencher.
As per regulation this method does NOT require a certification of the weights, but shipper is responsible to document how the VGM is calcuated. Method must be in-corporated in the daily quality systems, for example ISO 9001:2015.
The VGM can be reported in any written format. Only phone reported VGM is not acceptable. The submission of VGM must include name of person reporting VGM in capital letters and state if method 1 or 2 has been used.
Deadline for reporting of VGM to shipping lines has not yet been advised, but it is expected to be same deadline as cut-off for submissing of shipping instruction.
ENFORCEMENT OF VGM REGULATION
The IMO guidelines state that enforcement of the requirements is the responsibility of the local SOLAS contracting governments, which, acting as port states, should verify compliance with the requirements and enforce any incidence of noncompliance according to national laws. The IMO guidelines also state that the ultimate enforcement is that a packed container, for which the VGM has not been obtained sufficiently in advance to be used in the ship stow plan, will be denied loading onto a SOLAS ship and any costs associated with the non-loading should be subject to contractual arrangements between the commercial parties.
In Denmark the enforcement will be through random checks and the tolerance set forth is +/- 1000 kg. There will be an implementation period of one year and the first year the weighing equipment does not need to be certified.
WEIGHING OF CONTAINERS ON SHIPPER´S BEHALF
Martin Bencher can offer weighing of containers in Denmark on shipper’s behalf at container terminals. The service provider will be APM terminal who can provide a certified VGM as per regulation. Cost for this service is pending to be decided. APM terminal will use load pin system as weighing equipment. In other ports we are pending receipt of information from terminals on how they will handle this.
Q: Can we use method 2 for all commodities in containers?
A: For scrap and other cargo in bulk, method 2 would be in-appropiate.
Q: If the shipper is not able to provide the VGM for container, can the container still be loaded?
A: No VGM = no loading. In ports where the service is available for weighing of containers we can assist to have the container weighed. All extra cost in this respect will be for account of shipper.
Q: What tolerance in weight are accepted?
A: Tolerance is set forth by the local Governments. In Denmark the tolerance is +/- 1000 kg
Q: Do you use the VGM to establish the Bill of lading?
A: The shipping lines uses the date in the shipping instructions received to edit the bill of lading. If the VGM is stated in the SI then the same VGM will appear on the Bill of Lading
Q: Does the VGM has any effect on the custom clearance documents?
A: No. the VGM is solely used for preparation of the stowage plan and to prevent accidents.
Martin Bencher will follow the development of the enforcement of the new regulations closely. There are still many countries/terminals/providers who has not yet send out guidelines on their handling procedures.
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