Navigating Tare Weight and SOLAS VGM for Seamless Global Shipping Operations

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Navigating Tare Weight and SOLAS VGM for Seamless Global Shipping Operations

05/08/2024

Ensuring safe shipping operations is in everyone’s best interests.

One of the most impactful requirements recently implemented is the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) VGM (verified gross mass) regulation, which was introduced by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) to enhance maritime safety. This regulation states that shippers must provide the accurate gross mass of a packed container before it is loaded onto a ship to prevent incorrect vessel stowage decisions, prevent container stack collapse or the loss of cargo overboard due to instability.

Following VGM regulations is not just a requirement but also critical as declaring the gross mass of a packed container is vital for the safety of the ship, seafarers, shore-side workers and the cargo onboard.

Discovering the History of SOLAS VGM

In 2011, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) noted that the inaccurate declaration of container mass was helping to contribute to marine casualties and incidents.

To prevent further casualties or loss of containers, one strategy adopted by the IMO was to establish a requirement that packed containers were weighed prior to vessel loading to obtain their actual gross mass.

The work of the IMO led to the approval of the guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo (MSC.1/Circ.1475) and the adoption of an amendment to SOLAS regulation VI/2 that required the mandatory verification of the gross mass of packed containers (resolution MSC.380(94)).

Subsequently, further industry guidelines have been developed by WSC and CEFIC/CLECAT/ESC/GSF all of which were submitted to the Sub-Committee for Carriage of Cargoes and Containers to help further inform the committee.


Currently, a VGM declaration must be made prior to shipping in order to enable the cargo to be loaded onto a vessel and transported. Without this documentation, containers will not be included in a final stowage plan and are therefore unlikely to be shipped.

The Power of Precision: Methods Used to Determine VGM 

The verification of a container’s gross mass can be achieved in two ways:

Method 1: Weighing the Entire Packed Container

The first method used to calculate VGM is to weigh the entire packed container, including everything from the weight of the cargo to the tare weight and packing materials.

Method 2: Weighing Each Component Separately

It is also possible to calculate the VGM by weighing each item or cargo, and the packing materials individually, and adding the sum to the tare weight of the container to calculate the gross mass.

Whichever method you choose, it is important to ensure that the equipment used for weighing must be properly calibrated to enable accurate measurements. Equally, it’s vital that shippers include their VGM submissions within their shipping instructions to ensure that the container is loaded onto the vessel at the correct time for shipping.

The Impact of VGM Requirements

The implementation of VGM declarations has had a significant impact on both shippers and vendors.

As a shipper, you will be responsible for providing all VGM data within the myMSC booking platform. Because of this, you will also need to allot time within the shipping cycle for cargo and container weighing and ensure that all relevant parts of the supply chain have the necessary information to complete the VGM submission.

Vendors or terminal operators are responsible for only loading containers with a VGM. Before including a container in the final stowage plan, you need to ensure that you have received a VGM from the shipper to avoid breaking the IMO’s regulations. Some shippers may decide to weigh the cargo and container at the port terminal, so it’s also important that you allow additional time for these processes to take place where appropriate.

The VGM Effect: Safety, Supply Chains, and Technology

Since coming into effect, the VGM has had a significant impact on everything from supply chains to safety.

Safety

Accurate VGM information ensures that the weight of containers is known and properly distributed on ships. This helps maintain stability and prevents overloading and the possibility of capsizing. It can also help with emergency response planning, as responders have more information to accurately assess the risks, should the need arise.

Supply chains

VGM compliance also improves supply chain transparency and efficiency by ensuring that the weight of containers is accurately declared and verified before shipment. This means that carriers, vendors, and other stakeholders can use this information to plan and execute further transportation logistics effectively.

Technology

Since being implemented VGM requirements have also led to technological enhancements. The need for accurate weight verification has helped to drive developments in automated, precision weighing systems and real-time data-capturing technologies. These advancements not only make calculating VGM in shipping easier but also have wider benefits for the entire supply chain.

Ask MSC

Whether you’re looking for support with your documentation or customs clearance services, or if you need information about the best practices for international shipping for your cargo, discover our range of shipping and logistics services or speak to an expert member of our team. Contact us today to find out more.

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