IMO's MSC issues circular on container VGM headaches

MAY 24, 2016 — IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is to issue a circular on the SOLAS requirements on containers verified gross mass (VGM) that comes into effect July 1. The circular contains advice to administrations, port state control authorities, companies, port terminals and masters.

MSC has noted concerns on the application of the requirements to a container which was loaded before July 1, 2016 and then transhipped. At its 96th session (May 11-20 , MSC also noted delegations' comments that, in the first few months after July 1, 2016, some leeway should be provided to allow rectification of any problems resulting from software updates, required for the electronic collection and transmittal of verified gross mass data, without causing delays to containers being loaded.

In this context, the MSC agreed that while there should be no delay in the implementation of the SOLAS requirements, it would be beneficial if administrations and port state control authorities could take a "practical and pragmatic approach" when enforcing them, for a period of three months immediately following 1 July 2016.

This would help ensure that containers that are loaded before  July 1, 2016, but transhipped on or after July 1, 2016, reach their final port of discharge without a verified gross mass and it would provide flexibility, for three months immediately after July 1, 2016, to all the stakeholders in containerized transport to refine, if necessary, procedures (e.g. updated software) for documenting, communicating and sharing electronic verified gross mass data.

MSC also emphasized that the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers, is not limited to the provision and use of VGM information and is also covered by a number of SOLAS regulations, including SOLAS regulations VI/2.1, VI/2.2 and VI/2.3, and other IMO instruments.

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