Introduction

On July 1 2016 Chapter VI, Regulation 2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will take effect, requiring verification of the gross mass of packed containers prior to loading on board ships. Where a shipper does not provide the verified gross mass of a packed container, that container will not be loaded onto the ship. Therefore, from July 1 2016 any container leaving from any port in the world must be accompanied by a new document signed by the shipper listing the verified gross mass (VGM) of the container. But is Spain ready for this?

Local implementation

Due to major incidents caused by overweight containers (eg, the structural failure of the MSC Napoli in 2007), on November 2014 the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in collaboration with industry representatives, adopted amendments to SOLAS. These comprise an IMO-SOLAS mandatory regulatory requirement, requiring national administrations to work in the details and procedures of local implementation. This implementation will be based on Section 6 of the IMO Guidelines, which can be summarised as follows:

  • A container packed with packages and cargo items may not be loaded onto a ship to which the SOLAS regulations apply unless the master or his or her representative and the terminal representative have obtained the VGM of the container.
  • The shipper or freight forwarder named on the bill of lading is responsible for providing the VGM in reasonable time before vessel loading, regardless of which party packed the container. The non-vessel operating common carrier is the shipper vis-à-vis the carrier and therefore responsible for providing the VGM to the carrier.
  • The VGM document must be provided before the vessel loading date and must include:
    • the container number;
    • the seal number;
    • the number of pieces loaded;
    • the tare weight of the container; and
    • the total weight of all material loaded, including any dunnage materials.
  • Signature of the VGM document can be electronic. However, national or local rules may require additional data or information.
  • The regulation applies to all containers, standard containers, tank containers, flat racks and bulk containers.
  • Shippers may use two methods to determine VGM:
    • weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment; or
    • weighing the packages and cargo items – including all packing and securing equipment – and adding this to the tare weight of the container, using a certified method approved by the competent authority.
  • Estimating weight is not permitted.
  • The vessel need not be the verifier of the shipper-declared VGM. The carrier is not required to verify the VGM or the accuracy of the method of verification.

The effective date of July 1 2016 is not expected to be postponed. Therefore, shippers should be ready to comply with SOLAS by June 2016 and local and national authorities must implement the VGM into their laws and rules.

The Ministry of Transport is working through the General Directorate of Merchant Marine on a resolution to be published before July 1 2016 providing for practical aspects of the SOLAS amendment, the authorities implementing it and related matters.

For further information on this topic please contact Mercedes Duch at San Simón & Duch by telephone (+34 913 579 298) or email (mduch@lsansimon.com). The San Simón & Duch website can be accessed at www.lsansimon.com.

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