Thursday, May 26, 2016

Weighing In

New ocean container ‘verified gross mass’ regulations take effect on July 1.

In six weeks, sweeping new regulations that affect all of the world’s shipping containers take effect. Beginning July 1, the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, will require a VGM, or declaration of verified gross mass, for every container before it is loaded aboard a ship. Without the VGM, ocean carriers will be compelled to reject the container.

The move is aimed at safety, under the SOLAS or safety of life at sea provisions, preventing misdeclaration of container weights that has led to accidents. But with 160-plus countries affected and, just in the U.S., multiple governmental agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard and OSHA tasked with enforcing the mandate, mass confusion among shippers, carriers, forwarders and port operators exists about the practical impact of the rule. The Coast Guard has announced they will not be weighing containers themselves, but expect that to be worked out between shippers, terminal operators and carriers. OSHA would likely get involved in the aftermath of an accident.

Shippers can obtain a VGM in one of two ways, according to the IMO. They can weigh the container and its contents as one unit, which is known as Method 1, or provide the weight of every item and its packaging in the container and add that figure to the tare, or empty weight of the box, which is called Method 2. Ships’ masters were likely to come under pressure to load undocumented containers, but could find that if they do, the cargo insurance coverage would be null and void, warned an official of the International Union of Maritime Insurance.

One provision of the VGM rule is clear: the shipper of record, the one who signs the master bill of lading, is the one responsible for providing an accurate declaration. The other thing about the VGM regulations that seems clear is they will add cost, and even more, delay to ocean carrier shipping, at a time when ports are already under tremendous strain. Weighing a shipping container is a more involved operation than just stepping onto the scale.  As the new rules take effect, look for more shippers to weigh in on the weigh-in.

Kirk Shearer
TOTALogistix <>
800-989-0054 x103

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