SOLAS regulations – Verified Gross Mass of Containers

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Shore crane loading containers in freight ship

From 1/7/16, under SOLAS VI regulation amendment 2, containerised cargo can only be loaded onto container vessels, providing a VGM (Verified Gross Mass) is declared to the shipping line, prior to shipping line calculating their stowage plan for the relevant vessel.  Under these new regulations, cargo must not be loaded onto the vessel without the VGM.

It will be the responsibility of the shipper to declare the VGM, and the VGM should be certified on the relevant standard shipping note by a verified weigher.  An application to become a Verified Weigher must be submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) via email to: container.weight@mcga.gov.uk

The application must be submitted along with the supporting documents and procedures highlighted in section 2 of the checklist, which can be found within the guidelines published at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/verification-of-the-gross-mass-of-packed-containers-by-sea. The guidelines also include a copy of the original, but brief, SOLAS amendment and it’s supporting Annex. Whilst not mentioning the full version within the guidelines’ links, BIFA recommends that any party considering this application should also read MGN 534, which also provides guidance on the implementation of the SOLAS VI Regulation 2 amendment.

The VGM can be established by either weighing the complete container once loaded, or alternatively by weighing each individual item, plus all lashing and securing equipment and with the tare weight of the container added (this is always found on the outside of each container door).

If you do not have the facilities and are not able to register as a verified weigher, then you should investigate whether there may be a weighbridge close to your company/supplier’s premises that you may be able to utilise for this purpose.  However the weighbridge would also have to be certified as a verified weigher.

We are still awaiting information from various dock companies regarding what facilities are  to be offered at Ports of Departure, to establish the VGM of each container prior to being accepted at the docks.  Shipping Lines/Dock Companies will however by charging for additional haulage/weighing charges at the docks.  Once we obtain further information from the various parties, we will communicate this to you.

Also LCL cargo will only be shipped with a verified weight, however it is not yet clear how LCL cargo is likely to be processed, but it may be necessary for the LCL operator to check weigh all cargo in order to establish a VGM for each groupage container.

This is a worldwide ruling and therefore will also apply to any containers that you may import.  You may wish to make it a condition on your Purchase Orders that it is the responsibility of your supplier to declare VGM prior to delivery to local docks/warehouse.

MCA  (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) is only responsible for shipments undertaken from the UK, shipment from any other countries are likely to be policed by similar agencies in the exporting countries.

We would recommend that VGM is implemented from late May/early June, to be sure that if any cargo is transhipped or relayed from one container vessel to another during its’ journey , as a VTGM will be required should any of those containers be loaded onto transhipment vessel on or after 1/7/16 to continue its voyage.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in contact with one of our helpful members of staff on 0151 236 2006 or email sales@fwd-freight.co.uk

This article was written by fwdfreight

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