On 1 July 2016 new amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (“SOLAS”) convention that will apply to international shipments come into effect. For all containers to which the IMO’s convention for safe containers apply there must be a verified gross mass (‘VGM’) prior to loading of a container. The party named as shipper on the ocean bill of lading must provide the maritime ocean carrier and the terminal operator with the verified gross mass of a packed container. Until this has been received, the carrier and the terminal operator cannot load a packed container aboard a ship until the verified gross mass for that container has been received. Ship stowage plans should use VGMs for all packed containers loaded on board. Weight verification is not required for an empty container, and there is no requirement that the shipper’s declaration be verified by the ocean carrier or the container terminal.
The shipper may weigh, or arranged for a third party to weigh, the entire packed container, alternatively the shipper, or a third party, may weigh all packages and cargo items individually, including pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material, and add the resulting mass to the tare mass of the container. The shipper must clearly specify the “verified gross mass,” through the shipping instructions or by a separate communication, such as a declaration, including a weight certificate. In the UK the Competent Authority for implementing these requirements is the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.