Coast Guard Declares Equivalency With SOLAS Container Weight Rules

Posted on 5/4/2016 by Roger Marks

Last year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) amended the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations to require that vessel shippers verify container gross mass for all vessel shipments before they can be loaded onto a ship.

This new SOLAS rule will apply to hazmat vessel shipments shipped under the IMDG Code, but will also apply to all other types of vessel shipments.

The new requirements take effect July 1, 2016.

How to Measure Verified Gross Mass (VGM)

There are two permissible methods for weighing a container before it can be loaded onto a ship:
  • Method 1 requires weight the container after it has been packed.
  • Method 2 requires adding the weight of the cargo, pallets, dunnage, etc. to the tare weight or of the container. Tare weight is indicated on the door end of the container.

In the US, the agency in charge of implementing the SOLAS requirements is the United States Coast Guard. On April 28, the USCG declared an equivalency to the SOLAS container weight regulation (SOLAS VI/2). 

SOLAS container weight rule for verified gross mass or VGMThe declaration of equivalency means that the current US rules for verifying container weights and providing information to ship masters are equivalent to the new SOLAS requirements that take effect globally this summer. That means any equipment being used to comply with Federal or State laws for determining verified gross mass (VGM) is acceptable for the purpose of complying with the “new” SOLAS requirement.

Acceptable methods for providing verified gross mass (VGM) of a container before it is loaded onto a ship include:
  1. The terminal weighs the container, when duly authorized, verifies the VGM on behalf of the shipper.
  2. The shipper and carrier reach agreement whereby the shipper verifies the weight of the cargo, dunnage, and other securing materials, and the container’s tare weight is provided and verified by the carrier.
While the SOLAS rules require the VGM to be certified and signed off by the shipper, the equivalency will give US vessel shippers, freight forwarders, and carriers flexibility to work together to satisfy the container weight requirements. 

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Tags: hazmat, IMDG, new rules, shipping

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