Importance of Declaring the Gross Mass of a Packed Container

Misdeclaring the gross mass of a packed container can have serious consequences. If there is a discrepancy between the declared gross mass and the actual gross mass of a packed container it could have serious effects on the safety of the ship, seafarers and shoreside workers. If the gross mass is not verified correctly it could lead to incorrect vessel stowage and potentially collapsed container stacks and even loss of container overboard.

This is why in 2011, work started at IMO on the development of measures to prevent loss of containers. This work was in response to marine casualties and incidents in which misdeclared containers had been the main contributing factor. Their goal was to establish a requirement that packed containers be weighed to obtain their actual gross mass prior to vessel loading. This resulted in the approval of the guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo, and the amendment to SOLAS regulation VI/2 to require mandatory verification of the gross mass of packed containers.

The SOLAS amendments introduced two main new requirements:

  1. Shipper is responsible for providing the verified weight by stating it in the shipping documents and submitting it to the master and to the terminal representative sufficiently in advanced to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan
  2. The verified gross mass is a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship.

The new amendment is a prerequisite for the container to be loaded onto a ship but it does not constitute an entitlement for loading. Nothing in the SOLAS regulation limits the principle that the master retains the ultimate decision on whether to accept a packed container for loading onto his ship.

Verification of the gross mass can be achieved by either

  • Weighing the packed container
  • Weighing all packages and cargo items including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other securing material to be packed in the container and adding the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses, using a certified method approved by the competent authority of the State in which packing of the container was completed.

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