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The mis-declaration of cargo weight is a major hazard to vessels and goods, and endangers life at sea. 

When the MCS Napoli ran aground off the coast of Cornwall in 2007, over 20 per cent of containers recovered from the vessel were found to have mis-declared container weights, amounting to an excess to the cargo manifest of over 312 tonnes. 

To avoid such incidents happening in future, the International Maritime Organisation is introducing new Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations to improve the safe handling of containers at port and in transit, as well as reliability within the shipping process. 

From July 1st, the new SOLAS legislation will require all ocean shipments to be weighed before they are shipped.

As the shipper, it will be your responsibility to provide the containers gross verified mass (VGM) to the ocean carrier and port terminal, regardless of who packed the container. There are two methods available for supplying the VGM.

Method one – Weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment.

Method two – Adding together the weights of each item of cargo, any securing materials or additional packaging and the tare weight of the container itself.

To use method two, you will need to apply to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for authorisation and certification to supply your own VGMs. 

But will the ports offer a service for obtaining a VGM? Yes. UK Ports will be offering the provision of VGM at their facilities; weighing full load containers, and the production of and transmission of VGM certificates to the relevant shipping lines.

Failure to comply with the legislation could result in longer timescales to point of delivery, additional costs and potential fines. 

If you have any concerns, it is advisable to speak with your freight forwarder. 

Experienced freight forwarders such as Velta have been keeping their clients informed of developments and how the process will be implemented on an international scale. 

Some like Velta may also liaise on your behalf with ports offering VGM to gain and communicate these details with relevant parties when the new regulations come into effect, so you don’t have to.

Image source: Velta

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