Requirement on the Verified Gross Mass of a Container Carrying Cargo under SOLAS Chapter VI, Regulation 2
1.1 Clearly responsibilities start with the shipper. But who is “the shipper” in the context of the new requirements?
Ans: Under the SOLAS requirements, the shipper named on the ocean bill of lading is the party responsible for providing the maritime carrier and the terminal operator with the verified gross mass of a packed container. Even though a third party such as a freight forwarder is acting as agent on behalf of the shipper in the ocean bill of lading, that shipper will still be identified as the “shipper” defined in the SOLAS requirements. The carrier and the terminal operator must not load a packed container aboard a ship unless they have the verified gross mass for that container.
Due to the complexity of the international supply chain, the entity identified as the “shipper” on the bill of lading may not have direct or physical control over key elements of the process by which verified gross mass is determined. A “shipper” in such circumstances should be aware of their responsibilities and ensure that arrangements are in place to obtain and provide a verified gross mass in compliance with our regulations.
1.2 Is there a deadline for when the information must be received by the carrier and the terminal operator?
Ans: This is purely a commercial issue. Verified gross mass is required in order to prepare the stowage plan of the ship prior to loading. The Master or his representative and the terminal operator shall be provided with the verified container’s gross mass figure used in the ship stowage plan sufficiently in advance, in accordance with arrangements agreed among carrier, shipper and terminal operator.
1.3 If the shipper communicates the verified gross mass as required by this regulation, is there then an obligation under either Method 1 or Method 2 on the carrier or terminal operator to check the value given for that gross mass and report to the Marine Department any discrepancy that may be found?
Ans: The requirements are for the carrier and the terminal to ensure that the verified gross mass has as a condition for ship loading been communicated sufficiently in time to be used in the ship stow planning process. There is no legal obligation to check the value so communicated. There is also no requirement for the verified gross mass to be notified to Marine Department.
The objective of the SOLAS amendments is to ensure that the carrier and terminal operator have available as a condition for ship loading an accurate gross mass of each packed container. Shippers should develop effective procedures in conformance with the SOLAS requirements to obtain such information with that objective in mind. There is no requirement that the carrier or terminal operator weighs a packed container for which the shipper has already provided the verified gross mass.
1.4 The requirement is for accurate gross mass; is there a margin of error defined for this accuracy?
Ans: In Hong Kong, maximum tolerance of +/-5% and +/-0.5 ton are allowed between the verified gross mass declared by the shipper and the verified gross mass obtained by Marine Department, carrier or terminal for container’s gross mass above 10 tons and 10 tons or below respectively.
1.5 How accurate does the verified gross mass need to be considering environmental factors of influence such as humidity on wood (pallets), carton (if used as primary packaging), etc.?
Ans: Some cargo products may incur normal and minor changes in mass from the time of packing and weighing until delivery (e.g. due to evaporation or humidity changes) and some containers’ tare mass may change over time and vary somewhat from the tare mass marked on the container. However, these margins of error should not normally present safety concerns.
1.6 How will this be enforced and what will be the level of penalties imposed if a container is delivered by a shipper to a carrier with a mis-declared gross mass or if a shipper does not provide the verified gross mass for a packed container?
Ans: It should be noted that SOLAS imposes an obligation on the carrier and the terminal operator not to load a packed container aboard ship for which no verified gross mass has been provided or obtained. Compliance with this obligation by the carrier and the terminal operator may result in commercial and operational penalties, such as delayed shipment and additional costs if the shipper has not provided the verified gross mass for the packed container. The shipper may also confront penalties as imposed under Hong Kong legislation.
1.7 Will advance notification be given for inspection on the verified gross mass of packed container?
Ans: Advance notification is unlikely to be given for random inspection. For regular audits, the concerned party will normally be informed well in advance.
1.8 How long should the shippers, approved weighing scale operators, carriers and terminals keep the documents and records?
Ans: All the stakeholders, including but not limited to shippers, approved weighing scale operators, carriers and terminals shall retain all the documents and records related to verification of gross mass of a packed container for a period not less than 1 year.
1.9 We know re-verification is not required for container in transshipment. How about the container shipped from China by feeder to Hong Kong where that container will then be shipped again to other country?
Ans: According to the latest regulations issued by Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China, all the containers shipped from China to Hong Kong are subject to gross mass verification and thus re-verification in Hong Kong is not required.
1.10 If the container is shipped from Hong Kong to China by feeder, is the verified gross mass requirement applicable?
Ans: The majority of the feeders are non-SOLAS compliance vessels. Verified gross mass requirement is not applicable in this situation.
1.11 Is verification of gross mass necessary for the exported empty container?
Ans: Verification of gross mass is only applicable for container with cargoes but not empty container.
1.12 Will Marine Department enter the operators of approved weighing equipment and registered shippers for inspection?
Ans: According to section 115 of “Merchant Shipping (Safety) Ordinance (Cap.369)”, Marine Department is empowered to perform inspection at any reasonable time by entering any premises or board any ship which is registered in Hong Kong wherever it may be and any other ship which is in the waters of Hong Kong. Any contravention shall be an offence and may be subject to penalties not exceeding $20,000 and 2 years imprisonment.
1.13 For the packed containers exported from Hong Kong, any other information a carrier should obtain from the shippers other than VGM?
Ans: Carrier should ensure shippers to properly follow section 4 of “Guidelines on the Verification of Gross Mass of a Container with Cargo Packed in Hong Kong”. The information of “Method 1” or “Method 2” as well as registration number (if applicable) should be obtained by the carrier in addition to VGM.
1.14 As a carrier, we allow the shippers to submit shipper’s declaration via EDI transmission. However due to technical restriction, the field of registration number cannot be incorporated in the system. Can we obtain the registration number through alternative?
Ans: Carrier may consider to obtain one-off agreements from the shippers for record and so inputting the registration number will not be necessary in every declaration. In such case, carrier has to keep a register (record/file) of shipper’s registration number and ensure no non-registered shipper’s Method 2 declaration is inadvertently accepted.
1.15 As a carrier, we allow the shippers to declare VGM at the terminal gates. However due to lack of manpower at the weekends and on the public holidays, we are unable to check the information completeness as stated in the declaration. Is it possible for us to make the checks after our office resumes?
Ans: Carrier is allowed to make the checks on the declarations submitted at terminal gate in the next working day after public holiday.
2. METHOD 1
2.1 Where can we find a list of the approved weighing scales?
Ans: The list of approved weighing scales has been published in the Marine Department’s webpage.
2.2 Some weighing scales cannot produce tickets. Is there any alternative to the tickets?
Ans: Shipper using Method 1 is in a position to produce weight ticket or other documentation upon request. It shall be acceptable provided that the ticket or documentation contain the following information:
2.3 Who will pay for carrying out the weighing process for Method 1?
- Weighing scale’s approval number
- Name of weighing scale company
- Date of weighing
- Address of weighing
- Container number
- Seal number
- Name and signature of the weighing scale operating staff
- Company stamp
Ans: This is a commercial issue and will be a matter to be determined by the parties involved.
3. METHOD 2
3.1 One of the shipper’s registration requirements for Method 2 is submission of the training received by the persons engaged in the container mass verification. Is there any list of training school which can provide such a training course?
Ans: Although submission of the training is optional, Marine Department welcomes the applicant to provide the training documents during the application of shipper’s registration. The training material should be designed according to each company’s situation and is expected to be different from company to company. Generally speaking the training content should cover the operational training like how to use the weighing devices, filling out and keeping of any calculation or records and some OSH training. Marine Department has no rigid requirements on how the training should be conducted. It can be in a formal or even an informal style. The idea behind is to get the staff involved familiarized with how to handle their daily duties.
3.2 For Mainland shippers who send the packed containers by truck to Hong Kong for loading on board, can they submit the application of shipper’s registration to Marine Department?
Ans: The shippers in Mainland should declare the verified gross mass in accordance with the relevant regulations in Mainland. Or otherwise such packed containers shall be weighed by the approved weighing scales in Hong Kong to obtain the verified gross mass. For the overseas, including Mainland shippers whose containers to be packed in Hong Kong, they are required to submit the application of shipper’s registration before employing method 2.
3.3 Can I deliver freight to my freight forwarder without knowing the mass and ask them to weigh it, establish the verified gross mass of the cargo and issue the appropriate documents?
Ans: If your freight forwarder is the shipper on the maritime carrier’s bill of lading, it may weigh the cargo, using Method 1 or 2, and provide the carrier with the verified gross mass of the container. If you are the shipper on the bill of lading, you are responsible for providing the carrier with the verified gross mass. Where the verified gross mass is obtained by a third party such as a freight forwarder, the shipper will remain responsible that the verified gross mass provided to the carrier is correct.
3.4 Is it permissible for a third party to provide a service to weigh cargo under Method 2 and issue a “Verified Gross Mass” certificate to a shipper?
Ans: The shipper concerned shall first register with Marine Department. In the application form of shipper’s registration, it should indicate the third party takes on the role of carrying out gross mass verification of a packed container.
3.5 What if the tare mass appearing on containers is lacking or inaccurate due to wear and tear, etc.?
Ans: The tare mass of every container is marked on the exterior of the container at the time of manufacture. Where it is missing, or believed or established to be inaccurate, the shipper should contact the carrier to obtain the tare mass.
3.6 A packed container with its verified gross mass obtained by Method 2 has its declared figure deviated from the actual and beyond the acceptable tolerance. Investigation carried out unveiled the deviation is due to the inaccurate tare mass indicated on the container door. Should the shipper still liable to inaccurate verified gross mass declared?
Ans: If the incorrectness of the verified gross mass declared is proven to be due to the excessive deviation of the tare mass of container shown at the container door or the safety approval plate, shipper should not be liable to the incorrect verified gross mass declared.
3.7 We conclude that the four elements to be determined in order to declare the verified gross mass of a packed container under Method 2 are:
Is this correct?
- the tare container mass
- the mass of the product without any packaging.
- the mass of primary packaging (if any), and
- the mass of all other packaging, pallets, dunnage, space fillers and securing material
Ans: In general, this correctly states the process for determining the verified gross mass of a packed container using Method 2, but it should be noted that there may be several layers or levels of packaging depending partly of the value and the level of protection that the product requires.
It should also be noted regarding points b-d that it is only possible to rely on mass information provided by a supplier if such mass information is clearly and permanently marked on the surfaces of individual, original sealed packages and cargo items.
In all other cases, the mass referred to in points b-d must be determined by weighing.
Furthermore, Method 2 may be inappropriate and impractical for certain types of cargo items, e.g. scrap metal, unbagged grain and other cargo in bulk, that do not easily lend themselves to individual weighing of the items to be packed in the container.
3.8 We are a manufacturer and book the container with a freight forwarder to export our cargoes. We are only named as a shipper in the House Bill of Lading but not in the Master Bill of Lading. Are we required to submit shipper’s registration if Method 2 is used?
Ans: Shipper’s registration is only required for the shipper named in the Master Bill of Lading. However the actual shippers such as manufacturer are encouraged to submit application of shipper’s registration even though they are not the entities shown in the Master Bill of Lading
3.9 We are the freight forwarder who is responsible to consolidate all the LCL cargoes from different clients. As a shipper named in the ocean bill of lading, it is our duty to make a shipper’s declaration. How can we know the masses of cargoes provided by the clients are reliable for our calculation?
Ans: This is a commercial issue. Under SOLAS requirements, the shipper in the ocean bill of lading is the only party responsible for the verified gross mass declared.
3.10 We are a non-Hong Kong registered shipper but the container is packed and sealed in Hong Kong. Is it necessary for us to submit shipper’s registration if Method 2 is used? If so, what document should we submit in lieu of Hong Kong Business Registration Certificate?
Ans: Shipper outside Hong Kong shall submit application of shipper’s registration to Marine Department before adopting Method 2 if packing of the container is completed in Hong Kong. Instead of Hong Kong Business Registration Certificate, non-Hong Kong registered company can submit business registration document issued by the government of the country with which the company is registered.
3.11 We are a Hong Kong registered shipper. Our warehouse is in China where the containers will be packed and sealed. The containers will then be shipped to Hong Kong by land transportation for export. Is it necessary for us to submit shipper’s registration if Method 2 is used? If so, shipper’s declaration should be stated in Hong Kong format or China format?
Ans: Shipper in Hong Kong shall submit application of shipper’s registration to Marine Department before adopting Method 2, regardless of where packing of the container is completed. The shipper’s declaration should be stated in Hong Kong format.
3.12 We are a manufacturer and book the container with a freight forwarder to export our cargoes. We are only named as a shipper in the House Bill of Lading; while the freight forwarder appears as the shipper in the Master Bill Lading. We use Method 2 to work out the verified gross mass of packed containers. Do we need to provide the verified gross mass calculation sheet to the freight forwarder?
Ans: The verified gross mass calculation sheet is a proof of the proper application of Method 2. Such proof is a record has to be kept by shipper in the Master Bill of Lading and provided for inspection upon requested. So, manufacturer has to provide the calculation sheet/record to freight forwarder. Failure to provide such document for inspection could cause detention and delayed shipment of the packed container.