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Container Weighing (Verified Gross Mass) SOLAS Regulation 1st July 2016

From 1st July 2016 Shippers will need to verify the gross mass of a container carrying cargo. Without a verified gross mass the container will not be loaded aboard the ship. The regulation is aimed to address a perceived lack of control / accuracy in declaring the weight of containers which allegedly has led to accidents and loss of life and ships.

There are two methods for verifying gross mass:

Method 1: Upon conclusion of the packing and sealing of the container the shipper may weigh or arrange with a third party for the packed container to be weighed.

Method 2: The Shipper or an authorised third party may weigh all the packages and cargo items including pallets, packing, securing materials and add the tare mass of the container to arrive at verified gross mass.

For both Method 1 and 2 the weighing equipment must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the State in which the equipment is being used. In the UK the Competent authority for these accuracy standards has been designated as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The Shipper is defined as the person / party named on the Ocean Bill of Lading and is responsible for providing the verified gross mass to the terminal operator and carrier (Shipping Line).

Some practical points to consider from all this:

For those Importing to the UK on Ex Works / FOB terms the Shipper (as defined in these regulation) could be you, so be careful. You will be assuming a lot of liabilities and obligations that really lie with the loader of the container.

Verified weighbridge – in the UK, at the end of January 2016 there are (quote) ‘ No MCA staff in post’ to handle application and verify applicable accuracy standards. Gulp!.. I am sure there will be similar problems in other countries.

The method of transmitting the required gross mass information to the Carrier or Terminal Operator remains to be agreed. Some Operators have indicated that they will not accept paper declarations implying network/internet connection of the weighing equipment to Port/Terminal Systems.

In the medium/long term I would 'tick box liability' to be introduced. Ports and terminals will install weighbridges or weighing equipment to supply the verified gross mass to their Port Inventory systems at a cost that will be passed onto the Shipper. Weighing twinned containers is problematic and no doubt a more manual system will apply at smaller ports.Note cargo could be rejected if overweight leading to delays, cargo rejection and expensive unloading and repacking.

Unfortunately none of this addresses the problem NOW. The trade press is reporting on the build-up of safety stocks, expected delays, empty ships and an expected air-freight ‘spike’ of emergency shipments in July.

Certainly in the UK we have rarely seen a piece of legislation approach where business seems so uncertain as to the methods required to handle it and government so apparently unprepared.

Incidentally the legislation only covers containerised shipments not break-bulk, Neither does it touch on the need for safe secure stowage, lashing and securing of cargo within a container.