The safety for personnel and cargo as well as the prevention of marine pollution is of utmost importance in the maritime industry. That is why the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set up regulations to ensure smooth cargo transportation and marine operation in the world’s oceans.
Among the regulations set up was SOLAS, of which the last update to the regulations came into effect on July 1, 2016. SOLAS VGM applies to regulations on the gross mass of containers in ocean freight.
What is SOLAS?
SOLAS is an abbreviation for ‘Safety Of Life At Sea’. It also represents the SOLAS Convention or International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
Essentially, it is an international maritime treaty which establishes the minimum safety measures in the construction, equipment and operation of merchant ships.
IMO SOLAS 74, the last adopted revised convention of 1974, has a number of chapters covering safety precautions and safety procedures, from the construction of the ship to emergency situations, such as abandoning ship.
The convention also contains requirements for merchant ships of any country to comply with the minimum safety norms stipulated in SOLAS. It is updated from time to time to keep the safety norms current.
What does VGM mean in shipping terms?
VGM is short for Verified Gross Mass, referring to the gross weight of packed containers loaded onto sea freight. Each shipment must be accompanied by a VGM certificate.
Container weight verification is a global requirement. No container is allowed to be loaded on board a merchant ship unless its VGM has been declared by the shipper to the shipboard personnel and/or to port representatives.
Why is VGM needed?
The implementation of this rule is to help improve the safety of vessels at sea as well as shipboard personnel and onshore personnel involved in container handling. In the past, some shippers misdeclared the gross weight of containerized cargo which led to catastrophic consequences.
Overloaded shipping containers can cause accidents to trucks, trains and vessels employed in the supply chain. This directly results in massive damages and loss of life.
SOLAS VGM meaning
SOLAS requires the overall weight of all containers to be loaded onto a shipping vessel be declared according to its guidelines. SOLAS VGM is thus a declaration of the accurate gross mass of a packed container as stipulated under the regulations set in SOLAS.
A certificate is issued for this. Shippers which do not have a VGM certificate will be denied of loading the containers.
Although the practice of declaring the gross mass of all containers of a vessel has always been a requirement, the additional verification process provides an extra layer of security.
SOLAS VGM requirements
The requirements state that the gross mass of loaded shipping containers must be recorded and verified before the containers are loaded onboard a vessel. Each container has to be weighted and verified individually.
The two main mandatory requirements of the SOLAS VGM are:
- The shipper or exporter is the party responsible for providing the verified weight. This must be indicated on the shipping document and submitted to his representative, i.e. freight forwarder. The freight forwarder must then submit it to the port terminal with enough time in advance to prepare the ship’s stowage plan.
- The gross mass of a packed container must be verified first before being loaded onto a vessel.
Shippers or freight forwarders may use their own weighbridge, or that of a third-party or port’s, as long as the VGM certificate is issued by a weighbridge accredited by the Maritime Authority of the country in which the packing of the container takes place.
The SOLAS VGM is a global regulation enforced by the IMO, requiring a certificate to be issued to verify the total gross mass of shipping containers for export. This is to ensure that shippers make the correct declaration.
The regulation not only makes the shipper of the cargo responsible but also to ensure that shipping containers are within important safe weight limitations.
That is why it is crucial to engage a logistics service provider or freight forwarding company which is accustomed to organising large-scale cargo delivery and gives special attention to documentary support.
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