As of the 1 July 2016, shippers must ensure that the weight of every laden export container is verified using one of two weighing methods and communicated to the shipping line in time for preparation of the vessel stowage plan.

Without a Verified Gross Mass Weight Declaration, the shipping line and terminal will be prohibited by law from loading the container on board a vessel.

Responsibility for verifying and communicating a container’s weight rests with the shipper. The ‘shipper’ is the entity named on the ocean carrier’s bill of lading. The shipper may outsource the weighing task to third parties, such as a packer, hauler or terminal, however outsourcing doesn’t shift legal responsibility. Shippers should ensure contractors have compliant weighing equipment and processes before relying on them to verify container weights.VCW Weighing Jacks comply to the OIML/NMI approved accuracy standard R76 for Static Non Automatic Weighing Instruments.

Physical Weighing: After the container is packed and sealed, the container itself may be weighed with calibrated and certified equipment. Suitable equipment might include container scales, a weighbridge or weighing systems in handling equipment. The key thing to remember is that the equipment must be calibrated and certified.

Calculation Method: A shipper (or his contractor) may weigh all the cargo and packing materials loaded into the container, and then add the combined weight of the contents to the tare weight of the container. All of the contents must be weighed. Estimating weights is not permitted and the party packing the container cannot use weights provided by third parties, except in very limited circumstances.

For shippers of homogenous cargo (e.g. boxed electronics), the calculation method will be an obvious and efficient option. If it is practical to weigh cargo items before or during packing (i.e. with forklift or platform scales), then the calculation method may also make sense. If weighing every cargo item isn’t feasible – perhaps due to the variation, quantity, dimensions, weight or location of the cargo – then the only alternative will be to physically weigh the container after the doors are sealed.

There is limited infrastructure in many places for physically weighing containers. There are currently few tools available at the packing point for weighing containers. Weighbridges en-route to port are an option, provided they are available in a suitable location and an accurate tare weight for the vehicle can be ascertained. Congestion at weighbridges could be a concern for haulers. Lift equipment in terminals can be equipped for weighing containers, but many terminals don’t want to provide a certified weighing service. Weighing at the terminal may also be too late for preparing the stowage plan.

The new weighing rules have been set by international maritime law. Many of the details will be regulated at a national level. Keep an eye out for industry consultations in your region in coming months. MO42 document has been finalised and available for review see AMSA web site:

  • accuracy and certification standards apply to weighing equipment using Method one or Method two to determine a VGM.
  • maritime authorities have defined checks, enforcement and tolerances including penalties that will apply as of 1st July 2016.

Once the rules become clear in your region, you will have a limited window before 1 July 2016 to react. Affected companies should be preparing to:

  • review your current shipping procedure against the new rules
  • assess the alternative weighing options
  • upgrade equipment
  • modify contract arrangements
  • adapt information systems
  • implement necessary operational changes.

In addition to weight verification, shippers are being encouraged to follow provisions of the new CTU Code to further enhance safety through the logistics chain. The CTU Code provides best practice guidance on planning, packing, securing and unpacking containers. Amongst various recommendations, the CTU Code advocates container weight verification being done before transport operations commence.

Expect to become familiar with this acronym – VGM. It’s going to become a key item to be disclosed at the earliest opportunity in shipping documents. It’s a simple enough term, but don’t underestimate the challenge in delivering it … and the consequences of not.


  • Now is the time to get organised by contacting VCW to discuss and manage the complexities of container compliance so you stay in control.