The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will implement the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) effective July 1st, 2016. The VGM refers to the total weight of cargo, including loading aids, dunnage, and tare of container. The goal of the VGM is to protect the people and assets of the carrier, the terminal, and the cargo.
As part of the International Maritime Organization, SOLAS applies to all countries in compliance with IMO. These countries may adopt VGM rules in its original form or with additional requirements in accordance with local or national laws. Enforcement of the VGM remains with local state government authorities, such as the Coast Guard in the U.S. and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency in the U.K.
February 17: The Port of Charleston is the first U.S. port to say that they will provide in-terminal weighing services, if approved by U.S. Coast Guard. Charleston is one port among other terminals in Europe and the Mideast that have stated to offer weighing services. Alternatively, competitor ports of Savannah and Virginia are explicitly saying that they will not offer yard equipment to weigh containers on behalf of shippers. Source
There are two methods for calculating the VGM.
1 Weigh the packed/laden container
2 Weigh all packages, packaging and dunnage material, and add the tare weight of the container
Additionally, the shipper or a third party authorized by the shipper may weigh. The carrier or terminal operator is not required to weigh a packed container to determine the VGM.
Below are the VGM requirements and terms for reference.
a The Shipper
The shipper is responsible for providing the VGM to the carrier in reasonable time prior to vessel loading and/or full gate in at the sea port terminal
Topocean is considered the shipper in this case and will be responsible for signing off the weight certificate
a The VGM
i Consists of cargo weight including packaging and dunnage (securing) materials + tare weight of container
b The Carrier
ii Responsible for replaying the VGM to its terminal
c The Container
iii Refers to standard containers, tank containers, flat racks, and bulk containers
d What if it is a feeder vessel?
iv The verification must be provided at the feeder port
e The NVOCC
v The shipper vis-à-vis the carrier and, therefore, responsible for providing the VGM to the carrier
f The Data provided to the Carrier consist of:
vi Signed by the shipper or person duly authorized by the shipper
vii The VGM and the Shipper’s authorized Signature can be electronic
viii Local/national laws and regulations might require additional data, processes, or documents (e.g., weighing note)
g The Deadline to submit verification
ix Shippers should obtain information on documentary cut-off times from their carriers in advance of shipment
h The Scale for weighing
x Must be calibrated/certified in accordance with local/national rules
xi Will need to meet accuracy standards of the state
Carriers will not load containers without having the VGM. It is possible for terminals to reject container full gate in without having the VGM. Other penalties may include repacking costs, administration fees for amending documents, demurrage charges, delayed or cancelled shipments.
For VGM non-compliances in the United States, The U.S. Coast Guard will not be holding shippers accountable. Only carriers and vessels are party to the SOLAS amendment. Coast Guard’s Rear Admiral Paul Thomas said, “The agency (U.S. Coast Guard) will not be enacting fees or fines on shippers. Any fiscal punishment for failing to provide a VGM or providing an inaccurate VGM will be in the carriers’ hands.” It is not the same in Canada, where Canadian authorities will level fines on shippers without VGMs.
Any country registered by the IMP can ask to delay the SOLAS container weight mandate before the July 1st deadline. Russia has requested an extension for one year to July 1, 2017. On the other hand, the United States has decided to not delay SOLAS.