Facts of sea freight weight verification: On 1 July 2016 the International Maritime Organisation’s decision, that shippers have to verify the gross mass of items of freight prior to loading them into containers, came into force. Such weight verification of sea freight can prevent any undesired incidents and even avoid accidents.

Preventing incidents with sea freight weight verification

In November 2014 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that shippers have to determine and document the gross mass of freight items before obtaining permission for loading them into ship’s containers from 1 July 2016 onwards. The results must also be communicated to the shipping company. The background to this is that, in the past, this has often led to people working with incorrect information relating to container weights. This then results in ships being loaded incorrectly. The consequence of this incorrect loading is that it often leads to undesirable incidents and can cause some serious accidents. This regulation is part of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure the greatest safety on ships. The weight verification of sea freight should also reduce the risk of damage and loss relating to the goods to be shipped.

sea freight weight verification: how are the containers weighed?

There are two different methods covered by the SOLAS convention. In the first method, the shipper weighs the empty containers before they fill them up. Alternatively the shipper can contract a third party to do this. This method works for every kind of container and can also work in relation to merchandise.

The second method envisages individually weighing each component to generate the result. These components can include the:

  • individual weights of the merchandise goods
  • packaging material
  • stowage material
  • empty weight of the container(s)

The weighing of everything must be extremely accurate here, as an estimate is not permissible. This method does not come into question for every type of freight, however. For the purposes of sea freight weight verification by method 2, the following types of freight are excluded:

  • Loose cereals
  • Refuse
  • Scrap and
  • Bulk solids etc.

The shipper must also have prior calibration and approval for this method of sea freight weight verification.

sea freight weight verification: how does this type of verification work?

To ensure the implementation of the of the International SOLAS Convention standards, “BG Verkehr” supervises the weight certification of sea freight. This employers’ liability insurance association states that a prior certification (ISO/AEO) is required to determine the gross mass by weighing the individual components. The whole process must be completely documented here. No time limit is set, however, for recording this process in the quality documents. This is where a regular audit plan is effective. Not all shippers have been certified to date, however, which is why the employers’ liability insurance association has developed an additional procedure. This also allows the gross mass to be calculated and documented in a form.

This is how containers are weighed in accordance with the guidelines

Any containers that are reloaded after 1 July 2016 must have had their Verified Gross Mass (VGM) already determined in their port of departure before leaving. If the VGM is missing, the container is either not loaded or left in the port until the weight has subsequently been registered.

What information is required for the transfer to DB Schenker?

To transfer the VGM to DB Schenker, certain information needs to be provided. This includes the confirmed gross mass which is required in combination with a paper that also contains the confirmed gross weight along with the following additional information:

  • Container number
  • Weighing method used
  • Shipper’s name and address
  • The VGM transmission date
  • Signature from an authorised person

Alternatively the signature can be transferred electronically as part of the sea freight verification process. To do this the name of the authorised person must be entered in capital letters.

Is there a deadline for the transfer to DB Schenker?

Shippers must submit the report about the VGM to the sea freight weight verification authority in good time. This is because the carrier must pass on the transferred data to DB Schenker within a specified period of time. To do this, the individual carriers indicate a deadline of one to two days. This time must be kept before the ship arrives at the port of loading. The deadline can vary for this reason, as it is up to each carrier when the deadline is set.

How does it look with the tolerance limit in Germany?

The “zero tolerance limit” has applied in this country from 1 July 2016. This is checked for variations from the specified VGM on a random sample basis. Even the smallest variations are not tolerated here. Only the scales deployed in the technical operation can indicate any variations that can be taken into account by the BG Verkehr organisation, however.

How does it work with the VGM in relation to LCL shipments?

In the consolidation of partial LCL (less than container load) shipments, DB Schenker acts as the shipper towards the sea carrier. This ensures that the report on the VGM is provided in good time and that the container is loaded. DB Schenker receives the precise indication of the mass weight and, for this reason, does not require a separate declaration of the VGM. Anyone who has difficulty verifying sea freight weight and cannot submit the exact weight receives support from DB Schenker. As, due to the existing infrastructure, the individual weighing options can vary from region to region, it is advisable to enquire in advance about the costs that apply for verifying the weight of sea freight. Each local Schenker branch is qualified to do this.

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