SOLAS Amendment on Container Weight Verification
What are SOLAS container weight verification regulations all about? It is a mandatory amendment to the international law governing safety of life at sea coming
into force on 1st July 2016 which requires a shipper to verify the gross mass of the container. This means that no container without Verified Gross Mass (VGM) is to be loaded onto the ship.Following some high profile incidents involving the mis-declaration of container weights, an amendment to SOLAS Chapter VI Part A Regulation 2 now means:- “no weight, no load”. However, it is worth noting that accurate information of container weight should be provided in advance to vessel as required under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act and the Merchant Shipping Regulations.
Commercial parties within the container supply chain inclusive of exporters need to be prepared about how to be; obtaining, providing, transmitting and receiving accurate information using proper verified container weight. Terminal operator should communicate to shippers their preparedness and operational changes towards SOLAS amendment requirement.
To further sensitize stakeholders on their obligations and prepare them to implement the new requirements, Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) held a one day workshop on 17th March 2016 at the Nyali International Beach Hotel, Mombasa. The Export Promotion Council participated in the workshop among other government agencies, private organizations including exporters, shippers and forwarding agents.
During the sensitization seminar, stakeholders were informed of the two methods which can be used to determine the export container weight. Method 1 involves using calibrated and certified equipment to weigh the loaded / packed container and the shipper using this method is to be registered by Kenya Maritime Authority. Method 2 involves weighing each item including its packaging, palleting, dunnage, securing gears etc. to be packed into the container; add the sum to the empty mass of the container to get the VGM. Shippers using Method 2 are to be approved by the Kenya Maritime Authority. The shipper is to ensure the VGM of the container is stated in the duly signed shipping document and the shipping documents are to be submitted sufficiently in advance to the shipping line agents and the port authority. Matters of preparedness and possible cases of non-compliance took center stage during the plenary discussions.  Stakeholders agreed that pilot phase should begin from April 2016 onwards as a check on the processes involved for preparedness before 1st July 2016.
Participants were encouraged to visit the KMA website Commercial Shipping downloads for more information. Stakeholders were also informed that a similar sensitization seminar had been held by the steering committee for stakeholders in Nairobi and one in Mombasa specifically for shippers in order to chat the way forward.
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