Containers to need verified weights

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 50, June 2016

All shipping containers for export from New Zealand will need a verified weight before they can be loaded on a ship from July 1 this year.
Shipping containers
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
SOLAS amendments, concerning shipping containers, are intended to protect the safety of ships and seafarers.

An amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) means that verified weights will be needed for containers on all ships carrying international cargo that are subject to the Convention – which has more than 160 signatory countries covering 98 percent of the world’s shipping tonnage.

Shippers will be responsible for providing the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of the container on the shipping documents. The ship’s Master cannot allow it to be loaded without this information.

The VGM can be determined by either:

  • weighing the packed container, using calibrated and certified weighing equipment
  • weighing all the individual contents of the container, including any packing material and dunnage, and adding it to the tare weight of the container.

The SOLAS amendments are intended to protect the safety of ships and seafarers.

Maritime NZ senior operations advisor Victor Lenting says misdeclared container weights make it difficult to plan the safe stowage of cargo on a ship; and can result in container stacks collapsing, the ship’s structure being overstressed, or the ship itself becoming unstable.

“While there has always been a requirement for shippers to declare the weight of their cargo, some serious shipping incidents in the past have shown that declared container weights are commonly inaccurate, or grossly understated.”

Victor says port companies and shipping lines are developing their own operating rules for receipt of VGM information for export containers, including formats for electronic transmission and cut-off times for that information.

“In the first instance, businesses and other entities wanting to ship goods should contact their carrier or freight company to find out their requirements.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Trading Standards Group approves and certifies weighing equipment in New Zealand including weighbridges.

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