CCSMG Discussion... What is SOLAS? What is Verification of Mass?

April 27, 2016 Gary Neights

Elemica Supports New Ocean Safety Law Today!

On July 1st, 2016 the Safety at Life of Sea (SOLAS) Convention becomes international binding law. The 162 signing countries represent 99% of global merchant fleet tonnage. Approximately 300,000 container weights will need to be certified daily. This new international law has many scrambling because SOLAS requires Shippers to provide a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for each full container before they can be loaded; no VGM means no shipment.
Why was SOLAS created? The reason SOLAS was created is that incorrect container weights can cause ships and containers to be lost. In 2007, the MSC NAPOLI carrying 2,323 containers ran into bad weather in the English channel, broke hull, and was intentionally beached to limit damage. Inside the containers were a wide variety of products including dangerous chemicals.  114 containers were lost overboard and 200 metric tons of oil dumped into the sea. The salvage operation took over 924 days and the total cost of the disaster was $230 million. The investigation concluded 10% of the containers weighed far more than declared and the that verification of container weights would be critical to avoid future disaster.  
Even smaller incidents can put human life at risk.
This was a topic of discussion at the Chemical Customer Service Management Group (CCSMG) conference in Orlando Florida. Two methods are allowed for VGM. The first is to physically weigh the packed container and the second is to add the weight of all cargo items plus the weight of the packing material plus the tare weight of the container. Another topic is what to call the weight… currently, there are many weight communicated related to product shipments gross weights, net weights, tare weights, active weights, etc. Also, should the certified weight be send as a separate transmission or with shipping papers.    
Elemica’s contribution to the discussion was that Elemica supports SOLAS today in 2 ways.  First, we support sending a discrete Verification Of Mass message containing a timestamped ‘certified gross weight’ and whether Type 1 or Type 2 weighing method was used. We also support sending the certified gross weight as a part of an Ocean Booking messages. Any shippers need to communicate VGMs in accordance with SOLAS can do so via Elemica today.  Elemica can receive a Type 1 or Type 2 VGM from the shipper, port, terminal, weighing facility, packing facility, or any party for that matter, and deliver that information to whomever needs to receive it.
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