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When a verified gross mass is required

Providing verified gross mass (VGM) is required by Commonwealth legislation before a container can be loaded onto a ship.

The shipper must provide the gross mass as part of the cargo information required by SOLAS and Marine Order 42 before the container is to be loaded onto a ship.

The shipper must also ensure that the actual gross mass of a cargo unit is in accordance with the gross mass that they have provided for that unit on the shipping documents. Both packed and empty containers are required to have an accurate gross mass provided by the shipper.

Empty containers

Empty containers require VGMs in accordance with Marine Order 42. 

However the tare mass marked on an empty container can be used as the VGM on the shipping documents. An empty container is one where the contents have been completely removed. For liquids and gases in particular, residues after discharge are considered as container contents for the purposes of obtaining a VGM.

Offshore containers

Marine Order 42 applies the description 'container' as contained in the revised regulation 2.4 of Chapter VI of SOLAS. This states:

The term container should be considered as having the same meaning as defined and applied in the Container Convention, as amended, taking into account the guidelines for the approval of offshore containers handled in open seas (MSC/Circular 860) and the Revised recommendations on harmonized interpretation and implementation of the International Convention for Safe Containers, 1972, as amended (CSC.1/Circular 138/Rev.1).

This means that under Marine Order 42, offshore containers are required to have a VGM (an accurate gross mass) provided by the shipper in the same way as any other container.

Containers on chassis and vehicles

Marine Order 42 applies to domestic ro-ro operations—the SOLAS waiver for short international voyages does not apply. The need for an accurate gross mass of cargo for the safety of the ship applies on every voyage.

If containers arriving at ro-ro terminals are consolidated with trailers/wheeled chassis, the cargo loaded onto the vessel is a ro-ro unit of cargo. A container that is part of such a ro-ro unit of cargo is not required to have a VGM.

The person/entity consolidating cargo into a ro-ro unit of cargo is responsible for ensuring the declared gross mass of containers and all other pieces of cargo consolidated, is accurate and provided as required by Marine Order 42 for a unit of cargo other than a container. If a container is provided with a VGM, this may be used as part of the accurate gross mass of the ro-ro cargo unit.

If a container is loaded onto any vessel and stowed, secured and carried other than as part of a consolidated ro-ro unit of cargo, a VGM must be obtained and provided as required by Marine Order 42 for a container.

Portable tanks, containers holding bladders of liquid

Section 4.1.2.2 of MSC.1/Circular 1475 Guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo, provides that method 2 is not suitable for determining the weight of all container contents (cargoes).

A VGM can be obtained in accordance with Marine Order 42 by using either method 1 or 2. In both cases the shipper must use weighing equipment that meets the prescribed standards of accuracy, to obtain the weights of the containers and/or container contents.

Any weight obtained using other measurements such as specific gravity or volume, and/or using equipment not meeting the order requirements, could not be used as, or as part of, a VGM.

Where the weight of the container contents cannot be obtained in accordance with method 2, method 1 must be used to obtain a VGM in accordance with Marine Order 42.