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International Shipping Part II: Are You Ready to Comply with the VGM?

International pt2_6.10.16

In part one, we looked at some of the complexities of international shipping, and why working with a logistics partner is vital to helping navigate the pitfalls of shipping cargo internationally.

The most recent issue that is causing headaches for the industry, is The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) critical amendment to their Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations. This amendment is called Verified Gross Mass (VGM) and it will require containers to have their weight verified before being loaded onto a ship. It will go into effect on July 1, 2016 in 171 nations that
 comprise IMO’s membership.


According to the most recent survey, conducted by American Shipper, 69% of shippers and 60% of freight forwarders that were polled said they don’t understand how to comply with the VGM.

The biggest stymie point for shippers, is that most of them don’t understand exactly how their cargo will be affected when the VGM goes into place. Shippers are also concerned about what will happen with the containers that were loaded before the new regulation goes into effect?

Although the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has introduced new paragraphs relating to the verification of the gross mass of packed containers at its recent meeting, stating “Administrations and port State control authorities should adopt a practical and pragmatic approach when verifying compliance with the requirements of SOLAS regulations VI/2.4 to VI/2.6, for a period of three months after 1 July 2016, with a view to permitting packed containers that are loaded on a ship before 1 July 2016 – see the full document here – nearly 70% of shippers believe they will have containers held when the regulation goes into effect July 1 according the same survey conducted by American Shipper

Some Advice

By following reports, interviews, and market surveys, it is safe to say that there will be chaos.  However, the best way forward is to plan ahead and make the necessary preparations to minimize the fallout. Since the origin of the cargo is where the documentation and verification will take place, shippers are recommended to contact their logistics and trading partners to make sure they are prepared and that the logistics are under control.

Additionally, having the right logistics partner in place whose technology is connected to the ocean carriers’ online platforms, will help to ease the submission process.

Ultimately, understanding the procedures and maintaining compliance will be vital for international shippers. Working with a 3PL partner that shippers can trust, can be a tremendous help to mitigate the impact on their supply chains and will keep their cargo moving.