New Container Weighing Rule


As of 1 July 2016 a new weighing rule requires every packed export container to have its weight verified before being loaded onto a ship.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). In order to enhance maritime safety and reduce dangers throughout ocean freight transports, the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) has to be determined by the shipper.

How to determine the VGM?

  1. Weighing; after a container has been completely packed, the container can be weighed on calibrated and certified scales.
  2. Calculating; all packages and cargo items may be weighed individually on calibrated and certified scales, incl. mass of dunnage, packing and securing material and added to tare of the container.

Who is responsible for providing the VGM?
The shipper (named on the ocean bill of lading or sea waybill) is the party responsible for providing the ocean carrier and the terminal operator with the VGM of a packed container. We expect you, our principal, to provide us with the VGM (for groupage shipments as well as full containers), so that we can inform the carriers accordingly.

Is there an agreed format?
SOLAS does not mandate any particular form for providing the VGM information. We are considering to develop a standard form. The information of the VGM of the packed container should be conspicuously identified as such and must be part of a shipping document (booking request or shipping instruction) or communicated separately (e.g. declaration including a weight certificate). The document declaring the VGM must be signed by the shipper or a person duly authorised by the shipper.

What are the issues and penalties if VGM is missing?
SOLAS imposes an obligation on the carrier and the terminal operatornot to load a packed container aboard a ship without VGM for that container. Compliance with this obligation by the carrier and terminal operator may result in commercial, operational and/or administrative penalties, such as delayed shipment and additional costs if the shipper has not provided the VGM. In compliance with the conditions which apply (e.g. Fenex and Holland Freight Bridge/Atlas Bill of Lading Terms & Conditions) we will reverse all sanctions, penalties etc. to the party that communicated the VGM to us.

Although the new rule will be valid as of 1 July 2016, there are still a lot of uncertainties. E.g. there is no firm deadline set, but VGM is required in order to prepare the stowage plan of the ship prior to loading. And without exception, it always remains the responsibility of the shipper that the carrier and terminal operator receive the information in reasonable time.