New SOLAS regulation – ready or not, here it comes

The fast-approaching mandate to verify containers’weight prior to loading on vessels, will become mandatory on 1 July 2016 for African ports. Without a verified gross mass, the packed container will not be loaded aboard a ship. The Verified Gross Mass (VGM) is the weight of the cargo, and includes dunnage, bracing, plus the tare weight of the container carrying the cargo.

SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) requires the shipper to provide VGM in a shipping document, either as part of the shipping instruction, or in a separate communication, prior to loading. The shipper may weigh, or arrange a third party to weight the packed container.

In South Africa, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) has appointed General & Marine Surveyors and Assessors, as the first third party company to approve and issue verified gross mass (VGM) certificates. In Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, the VGM regulation will be enforced by The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) and Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) in Tanzania.

There is a significant variance in the weighing cost of containers globally. The fees could range from $136 to $225 depending on the location and the fees levied by the gross mass verifier.

An INTTRA Survey last year, identified widespread fears of disruption and lack of preparedness for the new VGM requirements. Respondents foresee the most disruptions in Asia-Pacific (42 percent), followed by Africa ports (22 percent). The new regulation was adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to increase maritime safety.