Everything you need to know about accurate shipping weights (VGM)

Everything you need to know about accurate shipping weights (VGM)

October 25th 2018

Accurate weights for containers must be calculated and declared when they are being shipped via seafreight.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires that shippers must provide the Verified Gross Mass of each container.

This information is a critical part of maritime safety to ensure correct stowage and stacking, to prevent container stacks from collapsing or going overboard and to stop vessels from becoming unbalanced.

What is VGM?

Verified Gross Mass is the confirmed total weight of a container, including its cargo, bracing and dunnage.

Although there has always been a requirement to declare the gross mass of cargo and containers as part of SOLAS, additional responsibilities came into force in 2016 which add an extra level of verification.

Because container mass is key to saving lives and preventing injury, the extra verification is designed to ensure that the VGM is an accurate reflection of a container’s true mass.

Verifying a container’s gross weight

SOLAS regulations allow two different methods to be used for officially verifying container load masses.

The first method involves weighing the packed container using certified and calibrated equipment. The second involves weighing all packages and items of cargo to be packed, including pallets, dunnage and packaging material, and adding all of this to the unloaded/tare weight of the container. The latter must be calculated using a certified method and is not suitable for bulk goods such as grain.

The responsibility for providing the VGM lies with the shipper – as defined by the relevant transport documentation - who must include it in the shipping document and submit it to terminal representatives in advance, so it can be used in the ship stowage plan.

This has to be provided before a packed container can be loaded onto a ship – loading could be refused if the information isn’t declared with sufficient time.

However, there are contingencies in place and it may be that the master or terminal representative may be able to obtain the VGM on behalf of a shipper if none has been provided, in order to keep the containers moving.

What happens if a VGM isn’t accurately declared?

There are a number of potential problems that could result from a container’s weight being declared inaccurately. These include incorrect stowage decisions, collapsed container stacks, containers being lost overboard, cargo liability claims, damage to ships, risk to seafarers and those working land side, supply chain delays and resulting loss of income.

Using IFSC Group for your freight forwarding

As seafreight specialists, we can provide expert advice when it comes to all aspects of health and safety, rules, regulations and documentation for your freight forwarding services.

Our services include ship chartering, full container load movements, less than container load shipments for smaller consignments and cross trade requirements. We work with all shipping lines to provide a logistics solution that meets your needs and have a global network in place to help ensure all transactions run smoothly and efficiently.

Please feel free to contact the expert team at IFSC Group for more information.