In four months (effective date is July 1, 2016), all shippers subject to Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirements will be held responsible for providing the verified gross mass (VGM) of every single container it exports. The SOLAS Convention has over 150 contracting States, which flag about 99% of merchant ships around the world in terms of gross tonnage. Many shippers have already been declaring container weights, as these are needed by carriers to plan the distribution of load on a vessel. Declaration may reflect an estimation of the actual weight of the loaded container, whereas verification provides proof of the actual weight or VGM of the loaded container.
There are instances of mis-declaration, either out of a lack of proper process and equipment, or a lack of honesty. This has led to containers falling overboard from ships, trucks tipping over because they are too heavy, too light, or the center of gravity so out of whack very little influence is needed to topple them. Stacks of CTUs have been known to crash down in terminals because a container much lighter than declared was placed at the bottom, making for top heavy stacks.
This is why the SOLAS guidelines for VGM reporting specify only two acceptable methods for weighing a CTU:
- Method 1: weigh (or have a third party weigh) the packed CTU.
- Method 2: weigh all cargo items and packing and securing materials, and add this to the CTU’s tare weight.
The issues shippers may face include: determination of responsible party for verified container weight, additional cost to verify, additional time to the export process in order to obtain verified weight. This is definitely something for exporters to broach with their freight forwarder or 3PL logistics provider.
Below is an infographic which presents (at a high level) the requirement, as well as a link to the Journal of Commerce webpage which is dedicated to providing SOLAS Container Weight info and updates – http://www.joc.com/special-topics/container-weights.