Earlier this month, at the ICHCA Seminar held in Belgium, it was revealed that less than 15% of the IMO Member States, in which VGM regulations will be mandatory, have issued guidelines on the manner in which they intend to enforce the regulations. With only a few weeks go to before the amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Lives at Sea or SOLAS, representatives across the industry gathered to review preparedness for the change.

The SOLAS requires that shippers obtain the verified gross mass (VGM) for each packed container and communicate it to the shipping line before it can be loaded onto a ship. The IMO has recently urged practical and pragmatic approach to enforcement of VGM over the first three month period. But, this implementing measures may not even be required, as less than 15% of the 162 IMO member states that are signatories to SOLAS have given shippers and operators any helpful guidelines regarding VGM procedures that become mandatory in just a few days on July 1st.

A recent Maritime Safety Committee Meeting stated that the key to a successful implementation of the VGM requires communication and cooperation between all parties involved, including governments and industry stakeholders. Mark Yarwood, Claims Manager of the TT Club, stated that “Behavioural change through all aspects of the supply chain is required. Weight is a relatively small element of broader initiatives to engender safety and improve operational performance. Improved stakeholder communication is foundational.”

The seminar was a recent element of a long-running effort by ICHCA and a number of trade bodies to create a greater awareness and understanding of the VGM regulation. As the July 1st deadline approaches, we will begin to see an increasing number of terminal operations announcing the service options they will offer to shippers to facilitate determining the VGM export containers. Sadly, where compliance is a shared responsibility, communication between all the different parties has too often been acrimonious rather than collaborative. As a result, contingency planning is now crucial for all stakeholders, to avoid a potentially disastrous impact on container supply chains.

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