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New rules IMO's mandatory verification of mass of packed shipping containers

Published:Tuesday | March 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will start enforcing the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) requirements regarding the verification of the gross mass (VGM) of packed containers before stowage aboard a ship.

The new rules will help shippers reduce damage to cargo while at the same time increase the safety of crews and vessels for all shipping lines and vessel operators.

This SOLAS requirement, to take effect from July 1, will mean that the loading of packed containers will be denied onto a ship unless verification of the gross mass is provided to carriers in advance of any vessel loading.

The named shipper will be responsible for providing the relevant document of verification of the gross mass of a packed container. The verified container weight will be used by the terminal and vessel operator.

A fine will be applied to the shipper should there be any weight variances after random checks at the destination are carried out.

The SOLAS amendments and the new requirements can best be summed up in two main points:

- Verified weight is a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship.

- Shipper is responsible for providing the verified weight.


Problems with weight

Typical problems arising from overweight containers include:

- Incorrect vessel stowage decisions

- Restowage of containers (involving delays and costs) if overweight condition is ascertained

- Collapsed container stacks

- Containers lost overboard

- Cargo liability claims

- Damage to ships

- Stability and stress risk for ships

- Risk of personal injury or death for seafarers and shore workers

- Impaired service schedules

- Supply chain delays for shippers of properly declared containers

- Last-minute shutouts of confirmed, booked and available loads when the actual mass on board exceeds what is declared, and the total cargo mass exceeds the vessel limit or port draft limit

- Impairment of vessel trim and draft, leading to inefficient use of fuel and a higher level of air emissions

- Liability for accidents and fines for overweight containers on roads with time and effort spent on seeking reimbursement

Lost revenue and earnings (customs authorities, exports and importers, shipowners).