New rules - Packaging and shipping containers
What exporters need to know about new global container weight rules
Effective July 1, 2016, no shipping container leaving any port in the world will be loaded on to a ship unless accompanied by a shipping document signed either electronically or in hard copy by the shipper listing its verified gross mass.
This new container weight mandate from the International Maritime Organisation, under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention, comes after mis-declared weights contributed to maritime casualties such as the break-up and subsequent beaching of the MSC Napoli on the southern UK coast in 2007, and the partial capsizing of a feeder ship in the Spanish port of Algeciras in June, 2015.
The primary responsibility for the safe transport of containers by sea rests with container ship operators. However, there are many other parties in the transport chain whose activities have a direct bearing on the safety of ships and the level of risk to the lives of ships' crews and other personnel on board.
All stakeholders should ensure the correct packing, labelling and weighing of cargoes when they are stuffed into containers, and the accurate declaration of goods by cargo interests.
- Those employed by shipping lines to book and assign cargoes.
- Those arranging for stowage planning.
- Freight forwarders.
- Ports and terminal operators.
- Shippers from whom the cargo originates.
Jamaican entities involved in these commercial activities need to know these frequently asked questions:
1. What is VGM?
Verified gross mass (VGM) means that the weight of each packed container must be proven. This verified gross weight must not only consider the masses of all packages and cargo items, but the container tare and all additional loading equipment (e.g., lashing material), too.
2. How can VGM be determined?
There are two ways to determine a VGM in accordance with the new SOLAS regulation:
Method 1: Weighing
After it has been completely packed and sealed, the container can be weighed. The weighing can be performed by the shipper or by a third party contracted by the shipper. Any scale, weighbridge, lifting equipment or other devices used to verify the gross mass of the container must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the government authority in which the equipment is being used.
Method 2: Calculating
All packages and cargo items may be weighed individually (including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material) and must be added to the tare of the container visible on the exterior of the container. The method used for weighing the container's content is subject to the certification and approval by the competent authority of the territory in which the packing and sealing of the container was completed. Any weighing equipment used to weigh the contents of the container must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the country in which the equipment is being used.
3. What is the scope of this new regulation?
The new regulation applies to all packed containers to which the International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) applies and which are to be loaded on to a ship.
4. What information should be submitted to the carrier?
- Booking number
- Container number
- Verified weight
- Unit of measurement
- Responsible party (shipper named on the carrier's bill of lading)
- Authorised person
5. Who is the Authorised Person?
Although the shipper named in the carrier's bill of lading remains responsible for VGM as per SOLAS guidelines, the authorised person must be duly authorised by the shipper, e.g., from the forwarder or a third-party weighing facility.
6. Who is responsible for submitting the VGM to the carrier?
The shipper is always responsible for the verification of the gross mass of a container as well as for ensuring that the VGM is communicated to the carrier. The carrier itself is not obliged to cross-check the VGM received. Independent of the party verifying and sending the VGM, it remains the responsibility of the shipper to ensure that carrier and terminal operator receive the information in time.
7. What if the VGM exceeds the maximum payload?
Containers exceeding the maximum payload indicated on the Safety Approval Plate and which are subject to the International CSC will not be loaded on to the vessel. The carrier has to check any VGM against the maximum container payloads.
8. What are the consequences or penalties when a VGM is not available?
The shipper will be responsible for any costs that arise (e.g., but not limited to weighing costs, repacking, storage, demurrage and administrative costs). Regulatory penalties will be defined by individual national legislations.
- Visit the Shipping Association of Jamaica booth at the National Indoor Sports Centre at Expo Jamaica from April 14-17 to learn more about these new guidelines.