The SOLAS verified gross mass (VGM) rule has made it essential that containers are weighed early in their export journey; especially in locations where terminals offer costly weighing services or don't offer them at all. While it's possible in some places to get your container weighed at a weighbridge en-route to the terminal, here are four reasons why you should consider doing it earlier, before the container leaves the shipper's yard.
In 2007, the MSC Napoli had 137 overweight containers onboard that weighed a combined total of 312 tonnes over the cargo manifest. Incidents like this led the IMO to amend the SOLAS convention. Now it is international law that every packed shipping container must have a verified weight before being loaded onto a ship. By weighing the container accurately at the pack point, you can be sure it is SOLAS compliant and won't be held up elsewhere in the logistics chain for breaching SOLAS requirements.
In addition, you'll be conforming to international best practice guidelines for packing containers, as set out in the CTU Code. The CTU Code says shippers or packers must verify the gross mass of the container before transport operations commence. Failure to conform to the CTU Code leaves the shipper exposed to negligence claims and other liability if an accident is caused by poor packing and weight management.
Weighing your container at the pack point means you can optimise the load and weight distribution and stay within weight limits. If your container will travel on rail for example, it is critical that the weight is evenly distributed. We've heard horror stories of shippers paying thousands of dollars more for road haulage, after the rail line rejected the container due to uneven weight distribution.
Another challenge when loading containers is optimising each shipment, but at the same time staying under the relevant weight limits. In many cases, shippers "guesstimate" the weight or intentionally under-load, to avoid fines, delays and other problems that come with being picked up overweight after the container has left the pack point. Think, if you could add an extra 10% payload to every container, every 10th container you ship is effectively free. Weighing at the pack point is good risk management - allowing you to optimise the load, manage weight distribution and avoid going overweight.
An added bonus of weighing at the pack point is that you can communicate the VGM at the earliest opportunity. This will provide your forwarder, carrier and other parties in the logistics chain with an accurate weight that they can rely on. The forwarder can then send the best truck and trailer combination to collect your container, and the VGM is pushed into the terminal booking system and vessel stowage plan well before the container reaches the gates. On top of that, weighing at the pack point means you avoid the cost and delays of having your container diverted to an off-site weighbridge. All up, weighing containers early increases efficiency and the smooth handling of your container.
It is common knowledge that containers in transit without a known weight are a hazard to workers, drivers, and the wider public. Controlling and verifying the weight of your container at the pack point is a guaranteed way to increase the safety of all individuals involved. While the new SOLAS VGM rules are maritime law, they provide an opportunity to increase safety throughout the entire logistics chain. It's about increasing safety across the transport modes; not just aboard ships.
One of the main reasons many shippers don't weigh containers at the pack point has been the absence of equipment for doing so, which has led to shippers estimating container loads, or using inaccurate check weighers such as weighbridges. This is changing. For a free, easy-to-read guide of all of the container weighing options currently on the market, download this free e-Book.