New Rules to Increase Responsibilities of Container Shippers
In 2007, MSC NAPOLI, a 4,419 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containership, suffered a structural failure and broke up in the English Channel after hitting rough seas. A contributing cause was later identified as misdeclared weights of containers being carried.
Incidents such as this have prompted changes to Rule VI of the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
These changes will become legally binding on 1 July 2016 in those countries that are signatories to the SOLAS convention and will bring about mandatory requirements for shippers on the verification of the gross mass (VGM) of containers, commonly called “the VGM requirement”.
Key Changes under the New Requirements
Containers Mass Will Need To Be Verified
Although it has been the responsibility of the shipper to declare the correct weight of containers under the SOLAS convention for many years, from 1 July 2016 the mass of all containers that are to be loaded onto maritime vessels will have to be verified to defined standards. It will be a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container aboard a vessel to which SOLAS applies without a proper verification of the mass of that fully loaded container.
Failure to Comply Could Cause Delays or Denial of Entry at Ports and Terminals
It cannot be assumed that ports and terminals will always do this weight verification for shippers as some terminals may not have the equipment to do it, and or may not be prepared to take on this responsibility.
Shippers, therefore, should ensure that there is a clear understanding of who will be doing the verification on their behalf, if the shipper is not prepared or able to do it themselves, as the shipper will bear the ultimate responsibility in providing this information.
Shippers Will Have Added Responsibilities
While most marine cargo shippers already carry adequate liability insurance to protect themselves from legal actions, this new VGM requirement does add to the responsibilities that shippers have. We therefore urge shippers of containers to ensure they have addressed the need to provide a valid, signed, SOLAS-compliant VGM documentation before shipping goods overseas.