Liner Shipping

Don’t be fooled by VGM Look alikes

There's been so much written lately about SOLAS container weight verification (Verified Gross Mass or VGM) that it almost seems I am beating a dead, well you get the point.   But something came to light recently which I think needs clarification. With regard to Verified Gross Mass the ocean carrier still has the final say as to what they will accept as a verified weight. The shipper is then obligated to present a certificate prior to loading. The two most common methods are:
  • Shipper's declaration of cargo weight from individual pieces plus the tare weight of the container. 
  • A verified scale weight of the loaded container. The key to the second method is the word verified.
With the SOLAS rule set to begin on Friday it's important for shippers to know how they will accomplish this requirement. Trade associations such as the Agriculture Transportation Coalition have been pushing for the Ocean Terminals to accept the "In Gate" scale weights which are provided to OSHA.   Recently the Ocean Carrier Management Association (OCEMA) stated they would accept the weight provided by ocean terminal scales as a verified weight subject to the approval of the ocean carrier.  The key here is that some trade groups while reflecting a desire for a unified plan of action have been misunderstood by other elements of the transport community.  I received reports across my desk that "Finally a solution to VGM" had been found and that shippers "do not need to provide separate VGM in the U.S."  Ladies and gentleman both statements are only partially true and both carry certain conditions. The ports of Savannah and Charleston as well as a few independent terminals have announced they will accept their scale weights as the Verified Gross Mass of the container.."Subject to acceptance by the ocean carrier". Exporters should still coordinate VGM with their carrier even in cases where the terminal transmits the data. It is your shipment and ultimately you will be responsible for its loading as scheduled. Ports under the West Coast Marine Terminal Operators Agreement (WCMTOA) have notified the ocean carriers that they will continue to provide OSHA weight which the carrier can use at their discretion. Here again "don't be fooled by VGM look alikes". Ocean terminal verification is not a hard and fast pass on the exporter to do nothing. Remember you're still responsible for coordination with your carrier in some form or other to assure that they have received your certified weight, and, if your containers enter the facility by rail "all bets are off"! Do you feel confident taking weight certification completely out of your hands?
Matt Guasco
Matt Guasco


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