Cut off for container weight data may be set earlier

Cut off for container weight data may be set earlier

SOLAS verified gross mass VGM IMO container weights
The cutoff time for a shipper submitting the verified gross mass information to a carrier will likely be before the general cutoff time being currently applied, according to a CargoSmart study on the new SOLAS rule that will be implemented from July 1.

Carriers will advise the VGM cutoff time at the time of the booking, with electronic submission widely regarded as the most efficient way of providing the data to the lines and terminals given the vast number of export containers involved.

However, if the VGM data has to be supplied before the current cutoff time, this would require shippers to adjust their container delivery processes as well as leave them less room for error should a box be rejected for loading.

Carriers have already said they will apply a “no VGM, no load” policy from July 1. While some national jurisdictions have publicized the penalties for non-compliance — Japan will charge shippers $2,600 per case, and in the U.K. jail sentences can potentially be handed down — if a container is not loaded, it will have significant cost implications for the shipper.

Industry chatter around cutoff times for VGM submission has ranged from as little as 12 hours before sailing to several days, with little guidance from most ports and carriers. In its study, CargoSmart reviewed the general cutoff times and schedules on routes from the U.K. and Japan — two of the few countries that have published guidelines for VGM compliance — to estimate what the latest possible VGM cut off might be.

The results are surprising. The analysis looked at the cutoff and direct vessel schedules of eight popular routes between the two countries that covered eight ocean carriers and vessels that departed from January through March of this year. The cutoff was obtained from the last published schedule from the carriers, and CargoSmart compared the actual time of vessel departure to the cutoff to identify the average number of days between them. It also reviewed the shortest and longest number of days between the cut off and the vessel departure time for each port pair.

The average cutoff time ranged from two days to eight days before vessel departure. This cutoff time varied by port even when the destinations were the same. From Southampton to Singapore, the average cut off was 3.1 days prior to vessel departure, while from Felixstowe to Singapore, it was on average 8.7 days.

“Similar to the general cutoff variability, the VGM cutoff times may vary by port and carrier,” CargoSmart noted. “To submit the VGM in a timely manner, shippers will need to work closely with their respective parties, including the weighing party, to come up with an efficient submission process to ensure that the VGM can be submitted to carriers smoothly.”

The software solutions provider also advised shippers that when considering options for electronic submission of the VGM, they needed to consider the reliability of the system, the changes required to the existing shipment management process, the visibility of submission status, and the costs involved in submitting the VGM on time.

In a CargoSmart survey, when asked their preferred manner of transmitting the VGM to their ocean carriers, 59 percent of respondents indicated that the shipping instructions would be the best way, with 20 percent preferring the VGM should be in the booking request, shipping instructions, or in a separate document, depending on the trade route. Only 10 percent of the respondents preferred to submit the VGM in a separate document.

Software providers such as Inttra and CargoSmart have created electronic solutions for the submission of VGM information to carriers and terminals, either with their shipping instructions or in a separate VGM message online, or through electronic data interchange or mobile platforms.

The integrated platforms help shippers throughout their shipment management process — from making bookings, to submitting required documentation including the VGM, to receiving status alerts and reviewing status updates on dashboards.

This helps shippers integrate the VGM submission into their existing shipping processes to eliminate one of the potential extra costs for complying with the new SOLAS regulation.

Contact Greg Knowler at and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.