As of July 1st of this year, the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea convention) container weight verification rule will come into effect, for any shipping container leaving from any port in the world. Therefore, starting that date, the requirement making container weight verification a condition for vessel loading will become legally binding.

With this mandatory regulation, shippers will not be permitted to estimate the weight of a shipment. The shipper (or its assigned third party) has a responsibility to weigh each packed container or weigh the contents, using calibrated and certified weighing equipment. To meet all requirements, the weight certification must be signed, naming and identifying the person verifying the accuracy of the verified gross mass (VGM) of the container on behalf of the shipper.

It is expected that this regulation will have substantial effects, at least in terms of cost, transit time and (at least initial) confusion regarding the process. It is very unclear what actually needs to be done, also for the Household Goods Shipping industry at large. The ports, the shipping lines and the trucking companies have indicated it is not their responsibility, thus placing the responsibility on the shipper. There are not enough weighbridges (certainly calibrated and certified ones), the bodies setup to certify this small number of weighbridges are overloaded with requests and are not sure of how to proceed, thereby putting this part of the process at a standstill. Additional complications are a.o.; who is liable in case of missing/incorrect VGM, what happens to the container then, and which party in the chain from door to door will book/communicate on/invoice the weighing service.

Fortunately, all containers are also weighed at the port, this is called the Terminal Verified Gross Mass (TVGM). It may be that shippers can request the port to determine the VGM, this will be charged. We do not yet know however which ports will be offering this service nor at what cost.

The developments are extremely diverse from country to country. The world is preparing, but not at the same pace. Our Harmony members are leading the way in finding the most sensible solutions, but the HHG shipping industry is very small compared to general commodities. We are on the boards of the international associations that are talking to the national authorities, so we keep a close watch on how this develops. We will be updating our customers and the RES Forum membership with regular news updates.

Regarding this article, you can contact Elisabeth van Ebbenhorst Tengbergen (Harmony Relocation Network) at e.tengbergen@harmonyrelo.com.

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