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What Are the New SOLAS VGM Ocean Freight Rules?

Beverly Altimore - Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) require every packed export container to have a verified weight before being loaded. The impact has been significant to Shippers all over the world. However, the shipment processes from the U.S.A. were evaluated and specific allowances were applied because the U.S. had already incorporated weight safety measures into their process. USSA explains how this impacts you:

Who is provides the verified gross mass (VGM)?

For shipments from the U.S., Carriers use the terminal-provided gross container weights.  The gross container weight has been provided to the Carriers for nearly 40 years in compliance with U.S. OSHA rules. Because of this long-established procedure, the Carriers loading at U.S. ports already incorporated the VGM into their process. The duplication of effort was recognized and a ‘logical approach’ was applied.

For Non-USA-originating shipments, beneficial cargo owners as named on the ocean bill of lading or sea waybill are responsible for providing the ocean carrier with the VGM of the ocean freight containers.

For on-dock rail shipments that by-pass the terminal gates, most Carriers are using ISCTA [rail billing] weights. It is important to note that, for now, some Carriers still require shipper-provided VGM for on-dock rail shipments.

Is there a specific format?

No, SOLAS has not required any particular format for the VGM information. The information should be conspicuously identified as such and must be part of a shipping document (booking request or shipping instruction) or communicated separately through Carrier or industry portals. The declaration must be signed by a duly authorized person.  Both the declaration and the signature may be submitted electronically.

Is there a deadline for providing the VGM?

Each Carrier sets their own deadline for receipt of VGM. The key requirement is that the VGM is received in a reasonable time to enable normal business practice to flow uninterruped. This will mean that it will be required prior to loading as it is used to prepare the stowage plan of the ship.

What if the VGM is missing?

Since the carrier and terminal operator are obligated to comply with SOLAS, a missing VGM can result in commercial and operational penalties. Examples include delayed shipment and additional costs associated with changes in shipment.
For more information on SOLAS VGM requirements, contact us today for sound advice and practical recommendations.

SOLAS VGM explained and how it impacts your ocean freight
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