The SOLAS Container Weight Verification Requirement


    As a result of safety regulations, the International Maritime Organization has decided to instill a new law. This law, which will become effective on July 1, 2016, will require all shipping companies and cargo to have a certification label posted on the cargo.  The label must include the crate’s gross mass, revealing the total weight of both the crate and its contents. This law will have significant international implications as it will be adopted by over 170 countries worldwide. This new change to the shipping world has brought about a lot of questions for cargo companies.

    One such question is who will be responsible for weight verification. According to SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea Convention), the gross mass verification will fall solely on the shoulders of the shipper. In addition, the port must receive the gross mass of each crate prior to it being shipped out to sea. This leads to additional questions, such as how to weigh the crates and what happens if the crate’s weight is inaccurate.

    There are two ways for cargo companies to weigh gross mass. One option requires the shipping company to weigh the crate itself plus the additional materials and contents of the crate. Another way of weighing the gross mass of a crate is by measuring the weight of the materials inside of it solely. In the event of weight inaccuracies, the cargo site can weigh the crate themselves and charge the shipper with any additional fees necessary to ship the items.

    In the absence of a signed weight certification, VOCCs or port terminals can refuse to load the container or can weigh the container and charge the shipper penalty fees in addition to the regular shipping cost. Additional questions have surfaced such as how the shipper can verify the gross mass to the cargo site prior to shipping and also who can authorize the official weight on the certification placed on the crate. One of the initiatives of this new law is to require all shipping companies to utilize electronic communications via the Internet. This means that faxes will become obsolete and will no longer be accepted in order to verify crate gross mass. Furthermore shipping companies will now have to hire authorized employees who are able to adequately verify the accurate weight of crates being shipped out. These employees will be responsible for signing the weight verification certification.

    These questions and more have shipping companies worried about the effects of this new law on the economics and production of the maritime shipping world. Many experts in the field of maritime shipping foresee that the new container weight verification rule needs further clarity on certain points and that as a whole they are unrealistic. Major concerns also revolve around the potential congestion that can build up at cargo sites due to storing crates that haven’t been labeled appropriately for gross weight.

    Only time will tell exactly how successful the weight verification initiative will be, as it is set to be put into official writing in the first quarter of 2016.