Published on Australian Maritime Safety Authority (

Container weight verification

Accurate weight declaration for cargo containers is a critical safety issue. Shippers must provide a verified gross mass for containers.

Providing a VGM for a container allows the master of a vessel to plan ship loading. This ensures that the ship is stable, hull strength and stack weights are not exceeded and lashing arrangements are effective. Incorrectly declared weights can result in container collapse, personal injury, and damage to equipment. 

Australian legislation has required shippers to provide an accurate gross mass on maritime shipping documents since 1994. Changes to the International Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced the new requirement for containers, to be operational from 1 July 2016. These international requirements are implemented in Australia in Marine Order 42 (Carriage, stowage and securing of cargoes and containers) 2016.

Under the changes, the shipper must perform the following before the container is loaded:

A container cannot be loaded onto a vessel if a VGM is not provided on the shipping documents.

Weighing equipment or service providers

We approve the accuracy standards to be applied to certification and calibration of weighing equipment. We do not approve weighing equipment or service providers themselves.

Weighing services will continue to be provided by:

Definition of the shipper

A shipper is defined1 as the entity or person named on the bill of lading or sea waybill or equivalent multimodal transport document as shipper.

In Australia, the shipper in Marine Order 42 is and remains the shipper mentioned in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991. This is the person or entity that enters into a contract of carriage with a carrier.

Definition of shipping documents

In the Australian context, the shipping documents2 are the sea carriage documents mentioned in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991. The shipping documents are therefore part of the contract of carriage between the shipper and the sea carrier.

Bills of lading are common examples of shipping documents but care should be taken as house bills of lading may not be the ocean or through bills of lading that are usually part of the shipping documents.

Transhipped containers

A VGM declared at the port of original loading will be accepted for onward shipment of a transhipped container. Exceptions to this may include situations where:

1. In circular MSC.1/Circular 1475 - Guidelines Regarding the Verified Gross Mass of a Container Carrying Cargo. See section 2.1.12 of MSC.1/Circular 1475 for the full definition. 

2. Section 2.1.13 of MSC.1/Circular 1475.

Last updated: 9 October 2023