As of 1 July 2016, shippers and freight forwarders around the world will be required to establish the gross weight of an export container before loading it for transport. This weighing requirement for sea containers also applies to containers loaded on sea-going vessels in Rotterdam. The shipper or freight forwarder needs to communicate the container’s VGM (Verified Gross Mass) as specified on the Shipping Document to the shipping company in time. Only export containers for which the gross mass has been established according to regulations will be allowed on board a sea-going vessel.
SOLAS, safety at sea
This mandatory container weighing is stipulated in an amendment to the IMO’s SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) treaty, which deals with the safety of merchant vessels worldwide. In the Netherlands, these new regulations and their implementation will be incorporated in the Ships Act (Schepenwet). Shipping companies (only in Dutch) can use the data relating to the containers’ correct gross mass to draw up a solid stowage plan, ensuring the safety of the ship, its cargo and the crew.
Verified weighing methods
The shipper or freight forwarder bears responsibility for informing the ship’s agent of the container’s correct weight. The VGM can be determined in two different ways:
1. Physically weighing the container on calibrated and certified weighing equipment;
2. The calculation method: adding up the individual weights of the cargo items, packaging, pallets, dunnage and other securing materials and the tare weight of the container.
The permitted deviation (margin of error) that will apply in the Netherlands is:
- No more than 500 kilogrammes if the actual gross weight of the verified container is under 10 tonnes;
- No more than 5 percent of the total mass if the actual gross weight of the verified container is 10 tonnes or over.
At present, other parties in the port of Rotterdam are still examining their options regarding whether or not they will be offering weighing facilities at their existing and/or future locations.
No VGM, no loading
The shipper or freight forwarder is required to notify the shipping company of the container’s correct weight by means of a signed document. The ship’s master is not allowed to transport the cargo without this document. In cases where a shipping company does not receive the correct VGM information in time, it will refuse to accept the cargo in question on board the ship.
However, in principle, containers that do not have a verified weight will be admitted on the terminal premises, according to the Rotterdam Terminal Operators’ Association (VRTO). However, these containers will not be loaded on board until the shipping company has received the required data.