SOLAS Amandment – mandatory verification of container weights

The mandatory weighing of containers by “shippers” in the supply chain is getting closer.

With around 200 days to go before containers will be ‘shut out’ by ocean liners if they do not comply to the SOLAS Chapter V1 Part A, Regulation 2, amendment takes effect on July 1 2016 in 170 counties around the world. A  verified weight will be needed and be verified by the “shipper”.

There are still more questions than answers on how the new IMO regulations will work in practice and how “shippers’ will overcome the lack of weighting equipment, but, ships’ masters and carrier port representatives will be obliged to refuse to load a container onto a vessel unless it is accompanied by a verified gross mass (VGM) certificate.

But there is some confusion surrounding the ‘shipper’, given that it is the party that has the SOLAS legal obligation for providing the VGM. The ‘shipper’ is the party mentioned on the bill of lading and could, in some cases also be an NVOCC operator (?).

The SOLAS amendment may allow for two ways to obtain a VGM:

  1. the weighing of the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment,
  2. or weighing all cargo going into the container, including pallets and dunnage, and than to add this to the tare-mass of the container to obtain a certified total weight.

The scenario of containers without VGMs building up at  ports after July 1 should be a serious concern for the supply chain and corporations are considering their options.

Shippers now need to consider whether they wish to obtain method 2 approval and if so, which route to take. In the UK, there are three main ways in order to obtain method 2 approval:

  1. businesses holding an accredited quality management system (e.g. ISO 9001 or ISO 28000) or Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status type “S” or “F”, which include documented procedures to satisfy the weighing requirement subject to MCA approval.
  2. companies operating a company management system including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), for example SAP subject to MCA approval.
  3. other auditing schemes as approved by the MCA.

We have a more detailed copy of the SOLAS Chapter V1 Part A, Regulation 2, amendment, in the attched document.