Shippers ask governments to harmonize VGM guidance

Shippers are urging government to harmonize container weighing guidelines ahead of pending regulations adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – a part of the United Nations (UN).

Not many shippers are prepared for the July 1 rules on weighting containers, but few countries have issued standards for how to do so, which leaves shipping companies in a tough spot. The IMO developed amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea in an effort to quell instances of container weight misstatement. The issue could prove dangerous for shippers, as well as land-based freight carriers. The organization had hoped to ensure more accurate container weighing with the amendments, but preparation has been slow.

Shipping group urges governments to harmonize container weighing processes
One reason for the incomplete preparedness for the pending regulations is the fact that governments have not harmonized standards for container weighing, according to the European Shippers' Council (ESC). The organization stated that even though shippers know the rules are coming this summer, it is difficult for them to do anything without harmonized container weighing guidelines agreed upon by governments. Many shippers are not prepared for the rules to take effect, and a lack of direction may be one reason why.

"Method 2 is considered the most favorable to shippers."

Since the container weighing rules were established, only a small subset of governments have put forth details on how shippers should weigh containers. A few countries have established guidelines for shippers under the Method 2 process for weighing, the option generally considered the most favorable to shippers. Method 2 involves weighing dunnage, packaging and palleting separately, and adding the sum to the total tare weight of the container, according to the Journal of Commerce (JOC). However, shippers are asking more governments to come forward and offer their own guidelines on Method 2, so that the businesses can properly prepare for the regulations for determining verified gross mass (VGM).

U.K. countries offer Method 2 guidelines
Countries within the United Kingdom (U.K.), are some of the few to have offered guidance on Method 2. U.K. shippers may use quality management systems such as ISO 9001 or 28000, the JOC explained. These systems set forth quality control standards for determining VGM. Shippers must attain certification for ISO 9001 or 28000, after which they are considered qualified to use Method 2 to determine container weight. However, many governments have not gone as far as countries within the U.K., in terms of providing Method 2 guidelines, leaving shippers waiting for direction as the deadline for complying the the IMO container weighing rules approaches.

Shippers being left in the dark by governments is not likely to assuage worries over whether they will be prepared for implementation of the container weighing rules. Research shows the majority are not yet prepared for the IMO's requirements. For this reason, the ESC is urging governments to help shipping businesses by informing them of their preferred guidelines for Method 2 ahead of the July 1 deadline, so that shippers can adapt to the weighing requirements in time.