10 things you need to know about the new SOLAS regulations
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to require, as a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that the container has a verified weight declared to the Vessel Operator and Marine Terminal Operator.
We would like to inform you that as of 1st July 2016, the enforcement of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) requirements regarding the verification of the gross mass of packed containers will become applicable. This requirement will apply globally.
After that date, it would be a violation of SOLAS regulations to load a packed container onto a vessel if the Vessel Operator and Marine Terminal Operator do not have a verified container weight declaration.
The shipper is responsible for the verification of the packed container’s weight, therefore ALL shippers will need to establish policies and procedures to ensure the implementation of this regulatory change.
At John Good Shipping, we like to help our customers gain a clearer understanding about the shipping process, in order to provide more transparent and smooth transportation of cargo.
We’ve come up with 10 things you need to know about the basic principles under the SOLAS Requirement:
1. Weight Verification
Before a packed container can be loaded onto a ship, its weight must be determined through weighing.
It is a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container on board a vessel to which SOLAS applies without a proper weight verification.
THERE IS NO EXCEPTION TO THIS REQUIREMENT
2. Two permissible methods for weighing
Under the SOLAS amendments, there are two permissible methods for weighing.
Method 1 – requires weighing the container after it has been packed, or:
Method 2 – requires weighing all the cargo and contents of the container and adding those weights to the container’s tare weight as indicated on the door of the container.
The IMO Guidelines state that Method 2 “would be inappropriate and impractical” for “certain
types of cargo items (e.g., scrap metal, unbagged grain and other cargo in bulk)” that “do not easily lend themselves to individual weighing of the items to be packed in the container.
3. Estimating weight is not permitted
Estimating weight is not permitted. The shipper (or by arrangement of the shipper, a third party) has a responsibility to weigh the packed container or to weigh its contents.
4. Weighing Equipment must meet National Certification and Calibration Requirements
Under both methods, the weighing equipment used must meet national certification and calibration requirements (details of these can be found from your local Trading Standards Office).
Further, the party packing the container cannot use the weight somebody else has provided, except in one specific set of defined circumstances.
The one exception is as follows: “Individual, original sealed packages that have the accurate mass of the packages and cargo items (including any other material such as packing material and refrigerants inside the packages) clearly and permanently marked on their surfaces, do not need to be weighed again when they are packed into the container.
This does not permit estimating the cargo weight, but permits using accurate weights that have been clearly and permanently marked on individual, original sealed packages (e.g., flat screen TVs that have their weight (e.g. X kg.) marked by the manufacturer on the box containing the TV).”
5. Signed Verification
A carrier may rely on a shipper’s signed weight verification to be accurate. The carrier does not need to be a “verifier” of the shipper’s weight verification. Nor do the SOLAS amendments require a carrier to verify that a shipper providing a verified weight according to Method 2 has used a method which has been certified and approved by the competent authority of the jurisdiction in which the packing and sealing of the container was completed.
However, it is important to note that, for the shipper’s weight verification to be compliant with the SOLAS requirement, it must be “signed”, meaning a specific person representing the shipper is named and identified as having verified the accuracy of the weight calculation on behalf of the shipper
6. What if it hasn’t been signed?
The lack of a signed shipper weight verification can be remedied by weighing the packed container at the port. If the marine terminal does not have equipment to weigh the container and provide a verified weight, alternative means must be found to obtain a verified container weight otherwise the packed container may not be loaded on to the ship.
If the shipping document, with regard to a packed container, does not provide the verified gross mass and the master or his representative and the terminal representative have not obtained the verified gross mass of the packed container, it shall not be loaded on to the ship.
7. What happens if the shipper hasn’t provided the required verified gross mass of the container?
Notwithstanding that a shipper is responsible for obtaining and documenting the verified gross mass of a packed container, situations may occur where a packed container is delivered to a port terminal facility without the shipper having provided the required verified gross mass of the container. Such a container will not be loaded onto the ship until its gross mass has been obtained.
8. What happens if there is any discrepancy?
Any discrepancy between a verified gross mass of a packed container obtained prior to the container’s delivery to the port terminal facility and a verified gross mass of that container obtained by that port facility’s weighing of the container, will result in the container not being loaded on board the vessel.
9. What are the consequences or penalties when a VGM (verified gross mass) is not available?
A container without a VGM should not be loaded onto the vessel until its VGM has been obtained. In order to allow the continued efficient onward movement of such containers, the master or his representative and the terminal representative may obtain the VGM of the packed container on behalf of the shipper. This may be done by weighing the packed container in the terminal or elsewhere. The VGM obtained in this manner should be used in the preparation of the ship loading plan (please refer to Chapter 13 of the SOLAS guideline).
The shipper will be responsible for any costs that arise (e.g. weighing costs, repacking and administrative costs). Regulatory penalties will be defined by the individual national legislations.
10. Where can relevant further guidance be found?
Further guidance regarding SOLAS and the verified gross mass of a container, can be obtained from:
If you have any further questions or queries relating the new SOLAS regulations for 2016, please contact us for assistance.