Verified Gross Mass
For years, we have seen rapid growth in container shipments by sea. The growing size of container ships is also associated with more cargo. Until 2016, the stowage of goods on a ship was done on the basis of the shipper’s declared weight, which was not always true, with the consequence that the goods were sometimes improperly stowed, resulting in the ship tilting and containers falling into the water or even breaking and sinking the vessel. The result was the loss of goods and the destruction of the ship. The cost of this was enormous. The shippers did not suffer the consequences, as the subject was not regulated by law.
To illustrate the seriousness of the situation – an example: MSC Napoli, which was severely damaged in a storm off the coast of Cornwall in January 2007. When investigating the cause of the accident, it was found that about 20% of the 660 rescued loads had a weight in excess of that declared. Specifically, the 137 containers were as much as 312 tons heavier than declared! The accident cost £120 million, and the salvage operation including the removal of the shipwreck took more than 2 years.
On July 1, 2016, the IMO (International Maritime Organization), based on the provisions of SOLAS, made it mandatory to weigh all export containers and report the verified gross mass (VGM) information to the carrier. Providing the weight of the container is a condition for accepting the container for loading in export. In the event that there is an accident and it is found that the wrong weight of the goods was given, the shipper will be subject to a penalty, which is severe in the case of maritime accidents.
The law allows a difference between the VGM and the actual weight of the container of 5% in Poland, in other countries these figures vary, but do not exceed 5%.
What are the methods of weighing a container?
According to SOLAS regulations, the shipper is responsible for determining the weight of the container. He is also the one who chooses the place, time and method of determining the VGM:
Method 1 – weighing – weighing a full and closed container using a properly calibrated and certified scale.
Method 2 – calculation – weighing individual cargoes, including the weight of pallets, dunnage material, other packaging to secure the cargo, and adding the weight of the container tare.
A permit from the Director of the Maritime Office or PRS (Polish Register of Shipping) is required to use method 2.
The introduction of VGM was an unpopular change, imposing an additional obligation on the shipper. In practice, the way it works is that customers-shippers are required to weigh the goods, then enter the VGM in a document or message, which is signed with either a qualified electronic signature or a legible handwritten signature, as appropriate, by a person authorized by the shipper responsible for confirming the VGM. The shipper then sends the VGM documents to the forwarders, and the forwarder enters the data into the shipowner’s systems.
Nautiqus customers do not need to send VGM documents by mail or by using an electronic signature. To facilitate this procedure, we decided to automate the process. In our proprietary forwarding software, Storm, we introduced the ability to enter the verified weight of the goods. This takes literally a moment. It is then automatically sent via Storm straight to the shipowner’s system. In case of cooperation with Nautiqus, this process is simple, uncomplicated and fast. Guided by the imperative to optimize the shipping process, we have created solutions to streamline this activity.