New SOLAS legislation (Safety of life at Sea)/Total gross mass Verification (VGM)

In order to reduce dangers during maritime transports and increase the safety of ships, goods, the crew both on-board and land, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted some new amendments to the SOLAS Convention. The new SOLAS legislations enter into force from 1st July 2016 and establish the obligation to declare the Verified Gross Mass of each container before being loaded on board of the ship.
To be clear:
The Maritime Company must receive the communication of the VGM of each container that must be loaded on board of a ship.
VGM = Verified Gross Mass: Gross Weight Verified. Gross weight of goods loaded into the container + the material used for lashing /cargo + weight of the container itself.
A container cannot be loaded on board without the VGM; indeed, depending on the local regulations it cannot not even enter the port in the vast majority of cases.
The ship loader has got the duty /responsibility to determine the VGM.
The Shipper (indicated on the bill of landing or maritime transport letter) must provide the exact verified gross mass (VGM) of the container to the maritime carrier and the terminal operator.
There are two methods to verify the gross mass of a container load of goods:

”Method 1” – Weighing of the container after being fully loaded
The ship loader will weigh the container, or let it be weighed, and provide evidence of the weighing after sealing it with suitable equipment.

”Method 2” – Weighing of goods loaded into the containers.
The ship loader will have to calculate the VGM of the container weighing the goods loaded into the container (including the packaging or the packaging material used for lashing/attachment of the goods) and add the tare of the equipment to the weight obtained as reported in the weight panel on the doors of the container.


It was published the Circular No. 133/2017 by the General Command of the Corps of the Port Authorities on 5 June 2017. This Circular gives interpretative updates for a correct application of the Rule VI/2 of the Solas Convention 74 which abrogates the previous Circular No. 125/2016.

With reference to the Circular No. 133/2017, the General Command confirmed the relevance of the ”Shipping Document” in particular, as the declaration originated from the ”Shipper” or, authorized personal, to provide the verified gross mass of the container (VGM) to the skipper of the ship, or its representative and the terminal operator’s representative.
If we compare the new circular to the previous provisions, it highlights and updates the elements that must be necessarily included into the ”’Shipping Document’ :

a. Verified Gross Mass (VGM in Kg)

b. Number of the container

c. Shipper’s Name

d. Shipper’s telephone number or e-mail
e. Name of the authorised person

f. Authorised person’s telephone number or e-mail

g. Method applied for the weighing

h. Method 1: Identification number of the weighing

i. Date and place

j. Skipper’s or authorised person’s signature

The certification concerning the truthfulness and the accuracy of the data transcribed into the ”Shipping Document” by the ”Shipper” and/or authorized personal represents a further significant element; In fact, it will no longer be allowed to use non-certified weighing systems from 1st July as well as a weighing whose the matriculation number is unknown for Method 1. The limit of tolerance of ±3% of the VGM declared in the ”Shipping Document’ concerns each container and it is taken into consideration in the event of any checks and verifications carried out after the weighing. Moreover, the Circular underlines very clearly that the ”Shipper” has the duty to document and communicate the VGM. In the evaluation phase therefore the ”Shipper” will have to document the verified gross mass of the container and its related VGM with the ”Shipping Document”. Generic statements are not admitted and expressly forbidden.
According to the use of ”Method 2”, it is important to specify that uncertified weighing instruments which are not included in the processes of weighing cannot be used since July 2017; additionally, it is highlighted the AEO authorisation is intended exclusively as an element which makes the access to the “Method 2” easier.
Given all of the above, companies that intend to use the ”Method 2”, starting from the issue date of the publication of the aforementioned circular, will have to adopt a quality management system which includes the process of weighing specified at the point 4.3 in the attached guidelines to the D.D. 447/2016.
AEO authorisation holders who have already obtained the authorisation to use the Method 2 can continue to use it on condition that they are in possession of company procedures related to weighing and compliant with the point 4.3 of the guidelines attached to the already mentioned D.D.
The ”Shipper” who intends to effectuate the weighing with the Method 2 must demonstrate the above requirements by sending a copy of the certification and the Chamber of Commerce whose validity is in progress at the Office 2° – Section 3a of the 6th Department via certified e-email (pec) ([email protected]).