The existing version of SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Convention is known in the industry as SOLAS 1974, which came into force on 25th May 1980. The International Convention for SOLAS Convention is regarded as the largest international maritime treaties from International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions concerning the safety of merchant Ships.
Over the past few decades, one of the key contributing factor to marine casualties and incidents pivoted on wrongly declared container mass resulting container masses stack collapses, vessel instability, injury to dock and ship workers, damage to cargo, stress to ships and port machinery. It also added costs from insurance claims and extensive environmental impact. In 2011, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) begun to work on establishing a requirement that packed containers need to be weighed to obtain its actual gross mass before vessel loading as a safety measurement.
During the 94th Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) session held in November 2014, MSC adopted the amendments to SOLAS chapter VI regulation 2, which requires the mandatory verification of the gross mass of packed containers.
With effect from 1st July 2016, it is compulsory for shippers to provide the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of their ISO containers in advance to the carriers to provide the VGM to the terminal operators to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan. Each country’s respective national enforcement agencies may implement the necessary penalties and measures to achieve the above compliance.
There are 2 SOLAS Container Weight Verification (CWV) Methods:
For method 2, it should be carried out using a certified method approved by the competent authority of the state in which packing of the container was completed.
Method 1 is getting most of the early attention as a contingency for containers received without VGM, to ensure continued efficient onward movement of containers and trade. However, this method means that the port/terminal operator may obtain the VGM of the packed container on behalf of the shipper, and the most appropriate place to weigh the container will be in the port/terminal.
Obtaining and documenting the VGM is a tremendous change in the international container shipping industry. The VGM and related information must also be exchanged and shared between parties via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) at different times; this may involve several documentation formats, multiple protocols and standards between shippers, forwarders, carriers, terminals and enforcement agencies.
To avoid a container not being able to load up to a vessel due the absence of a VGM, stakeholders need to adopt an electronic VGM solution that supports VERMAS (Verification of Mass) message specifications coupled with a complete range of approved, calibrated and certified equipment solutions to weigh the containers.
For information and assistance on SOLAS VGM implementation, please contact us.