Friday, July 15, 2016

Verified Gross Mass (VGM)

Background
MSC NAPOLI IN 2007: A major incident at sea caused by many overweight containers. This was the actual starting point for discussing stricter rules on container weight declaration. Onward accidents incurred many discussions worldwide and IMO got interested in preventing the recurrence of them.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will enforce globally the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention requirements regarding the verification of the gross weight of packed containers. All loaded containers are required to have a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) declared by exporter/shippers.

What is Verified Gross Mass (VGM)? Verified Gross Mass is the shipper declared total gross mass of a packed container as obtained by one of the methods described below. This Verified Gross Weight must include all packages and cargo items, all additional loading equipment (e.g. packing materials) and the container tare weight. Please refer to Chapter 2.1 of the SOLAS guideline.

The rules prescribe two methods by which the shipper may obtain the verified gross mass of a packed container: 
  1. Method 1, upon the conclusion of packing and sealing a container, the shipper may weigh, or have arranged that a third party weigh, the packed container
  2. Method 2, the shipper (or, by arrangement of the shipper, a third party) may weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses of the container’s contents. (Estimating the weight of a container’s contents is not permitted.)
In respect of both method 1 and 2, the weighing equipment used must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the State in which the equipment is being used. Also under either method, the declaration of the verified weight must be signed and dated by the shipper or by its duly authorized representative and to provide to the carrier via either electronic interchange channels or a physical shipping document.

IMO Guidelines (SOLAS chapter VI, part A, regulation 2)
In the long run, the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) at its 93rd session (May 2014) approved and (November 2014) adopted changes to the saftey of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention regarding a mandatory container weight verification requirement on shippers.
The SOLAS amendments become effective on 1 July 2016.

The regulation clearly states the shipper is always responsible for the verification of the gross mass of a container carrying cargo.
The shipper is also responsible for ensuring that the verified gross mass is communicated to the carrier in a shipping document sufficiently in advance to be used by the ship's master or his representative and the terminal representative in the preparation of the vessel’s stowage plan.
This document can be part of the shipping instructions to the shipping company or a separate communication

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