Verified Gross Mass of container shipments now mandatory

Verified Gross Mass (VGM) documentation for marine containers became mandatory on July 1, 2016 in Canada and elsewhere. Gross mass means the combined mass of a container’s tare mass and the masses of all packages and cargo items, including pallets, dunnage and other packing material and securing materials packed into the container. Under Transport Canada regulations1,

in order to verify the gross mass of a packed container in Canada the shipper shall either
a. weigh the loaded container (Method one); or
b. weigh all the items loaded into the container (including dunnage, securing material, etc.) and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of those single masses (Method two).

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) this year amended the SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) regulations. Specifically, Chapter VI, Regulation 2, paragraphs 4 to 6 which now require the verification of the declared weight of containers, whereas carriers previously had to rely on shippers’ declarations of weight/mass.

The IMO states2:

it would be beneficial if Administrations and port State control authorities could take a “practical and pragmatic approach” when enforcing [the updated regulations], for a period of three months immediately following 1 July 2016.

The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has published an advice circular (pdf download) regarding the SOLAS VGM. The MSC also reminded members of the shipping community “that the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers, is not limited to the provision and use of VGM information and is also covered by a number of SOLAS regulations, including SOLAS regulations VI/2.1, VI/2.2 and VI/2.3, and other IMO instruments, amongst others.”

1 CANADIAN PROCEDURE FOR OBTAINING THE VERIFIED GROSS MASS OF PACKED CONTAINERS AS REQUIRED BY SOLAS VI/2 – TP 15330 (retrieved from: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/tp-menu-515-4505.html}

2 (retrieved from: http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/PressBriefings/Pages/14-VGM.aspx)