On July 1, 2016, new guidelines go into effect to ensure that weights are accurately declared on all vessel shipments. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) has long required declaration of weights, but the new policy requires shippers to verify that the weights are accurate. Over the past few years, accidents at sea resulting from misdeclared weights forced the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization to develop this policy. The maritime organization in each country is responsible for enforcement.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For importers, the new guidelines mean that your vendors and factories are responsible for providing the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of all shipments prior to loading. This includes the weight of the items in the consignment, any packing, wrapping materials, pallet, dunnage, etc., and the weight of the container.
For full container shipments (FCL), the shipper on the bill of lading will have to present, via the Freight Forwarder, non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), or other agent, the VGM of the contents. Importers will only have to insist that the shipper provide this information in a timely manner.
If non-compliant, the containers will not be loaded on the vessel, according to the rule. Both the terminal and the shipper can be held responsible.
Practically speaking, however, implementation is still being determined. There will be online portals for declaring the VGM, as well as email, manual means, etc. Individual carriers, freight forwarders and NVOs will decide how they ensure that the information is filed in a timely manner. At this point, it is believed that weights given and certified by shippers will be accepted.
WB SKINNER’S APPROACH
Although the rules become official July 1, WB Skinner is encouraging its customers to begin implementation as soon as this month, to avoid fines and disruptions.
On shipments moved through WB Skinner agents, our partners will be contacting all shippers with the requirements specific to that country and carrier, as well as costs and timeframes prior to delivery of the container to the port.
HOW VGM IS DETERMINED
Currently, there are only two approved methods for determining Verified Gross Mass:
Take the loaded container to a properly certified scale facility, where it is weighed and a certificate issued.
Weigh every item in the consignment, including its packaging. Calculate the total weight of the load that is leaving your facility. If it is a FULL Container, then the TARE Weight of the container is listed on the rear door of every container. Add that TARE weight to the weight of all product, packaging, pallets and dunnage, and you can now certify this weight through means that will be determined at each origin throughout the world. TARE weights are also available on all carrier websites and our network of partners is always available to assist.
Depending on how less-than-container-load shipments (LTL or LCL) travel and their origins, most LTL receiving depots have accurate scales in use and offer weighing services for a fee. WB Skinner, through its partners, offers this as a service as well.
Declaring VGM prior to delivery of full container shipments (FCL) will most likely be considered best practice.
All of the above applies to both Imports and Exports. Since 2007/2008, most of the common carriers moving LTL cargo from shippers to forwarder receiving docks in the U.S. have been check-weighing the cargo, and most of the U.S. Shippers accurately declare weights on their documents. For FCL, the shipper will have the ability to pay for a container to be weighed at a proper facility, or use the second, more deductive method 2 as described above. Either way, WB Skinner will be here to assist and we will have the ability to file this information online with all carriers as soon as they decide how they want to receive it. This is still a large gray area everywhere around the world, and we will be monitoring the developments and providing frequent updates.
We are anticipating that the certification will result in added fees for these services from all participants down the line, in addition to the cost that may occur from the Weighing Facility if your customers choose that route.
Please contact us to discuss the new regulations and how they may affect your business. We can help you find the most practical and cost-efficient solution for your situation.