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SOLAS: Verified Gross Mass requirement; update June 20, 2016

SOLAS: Verified Gross Mass requirement; update June 20, 2016

With July 1st, 2016 quickly approaching, Sea Cargo Inc. would like to update our clients about the upcoming Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulation that requires the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) weight of a container to be reported in advance of the container being loaded onto a vessel.  Misdeclaring weight is a global issue. Misdeclared cargo weight can lead to potential injury or death of the crew, shore side workers, and other individuals involved with the handling of cargo moves. It can also lead to incorrect vessel stowage which can further cause other cargo to be damaged, as well as the vessel to be unstable. A large portion of these potentially serious problems can be prevented by providing the steamship lines with the correct weights of the containers. This new regulation breaks down to saying if the weight is not verified, the cargo will not be loaded onto the ship. In addition, estimating the weight of the cargo will no longer be permitted.

The two best methods for verifying the gross mass that have been suggested include weighing the packed container, or weighing the cargo and then adding the tare mass of the container separately. With these two simple methods, the steamship lines should be able to better load and manage the cargo while also preventing many of the issues stated above. Shippers may rely on other 3rd parties to properly verify the weight of their containers, but ultimately the shipper is responsible. If the shipper is unable to verify the weight of the cargo, additional charges will be applied to ensure an accurate weight can be declared before the container is loaded on to the vessel.

At the current moment, no standard guidelines have been established, but the majority of the steamship lines are trying to determine the best ways to implement the Verified Gross Mass process. That being said, many of the carriers have assurances that there will be a few months of leeway before concrete rules and penalties will go into effect. Please note, fines and penalties have not been defined clearly aside from the fact that the container/cargo will not being shipped if the cargo weight has not been verified.  In this situation, standard costs of equipment and storage will apply, as well as altered arrival dates for the containers that are held back. Sea Cargo Inc. will continue to support our clients, as well as provide the best possible solutions to any problems that may arise due to this new regulation. The Sea Cargo Inc. Team will do our best to keep our customers informed and in compliance in order to help insure we are making every move simple. 

Sea Cargo Inc. Education Center: ISF: Importer Security Filing 10+2

As of January 26, 2009, when importing ocean cargo, importers are required to submit an Importer Security Filling form (ISF form) to United States Customs (CBP).  ISF forms are required per section 203 of the SAFE Port Act. The ISF form is transmitted to CBP at least 24 hours prior to the cargo being loaded onto an ocean vessel headed to the US. ISF forms are also known as 10+2 because they require importers to provide ten data elements to CBP plus two more data documents (Container Status Messages and the vessel’s Stow Plan) from the carrier.  The reason for the information is so that the Department of Homeland Security is able to screen cargo prior to arrival at the US ports. If compliance is not met, importers can face fines up to $5,000 for each violation. All ISF forms are filed electronically via Automated Manifest System (AMS) or the Automated Broker Interface (ABI); but currently there is a shift from AMS to the newly implemented Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).

The details of an ISF form

The following 10 data elements are required from the importer:

1.       Seller (or owner) name and address

2.       Buyer (or owner) name and address

3.       Importer of record number foreign trade zone application identification number

4.       Consignee number(s)

5.       Manufacturer (or supplier) name and address

6.       Ship-to name and address

7.       Country of origin

8.       Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule number to six (6) digits

9.       Container stuffing location

10.   Consolidator (Loading Facility) name and address


From the carrier, 2 Data documents are required:

1.       Vessel stow plan

2.       Container status messages


If you have any questions regarding the ISF Form or your next shipment, please contact Sea Cargo Inc. and our dedicated personnel along with the experienced brokers we work with will be happy to assist you. 

Container Weight Verification Requirement Coming July 1, 2016


 The International Maritime Organization (IMO) which is the United Nations Specialized agency with responsibility for environmental performance, safety, and security in internal shipping. During the May 2014 session the IMO approved new regulations regarding a mandatory container weight verification for as an additional safety precaution. This new requirement will mandate that each bill of lading will accurately declare the weight of a container this will allow that container ships loads are balanced and distributed properly to prevent a shipwreck like that which the MOL Comfort sustained June 17, 2013 where the ship suffered a crack in the middle of the ship and eventually split into two.  For more details about this approaching requirement see this pdf from the World Shipping Council.

This new regulation will go into effect starting July 1, 2016. Each Shipper and shipping line will slowly adopt their own procedure for this because there are potential for multiple solutions already in place that could effective handle this upcoming challenge. Currently cargo is weighted at various scales during the loading and unloading process, however at each of the various weight points the equipment would require proper calibration which could add be huge costs. Additionally, those shipper or shipping line solutions may not be prepared by the July start date. Another possibility could be weighting the trucks with cargo before they enter the port.


As of March 1, 2016 the US Coast Guard asserted the container weight verification guidelines were not mandatory, however this does not mean that this will not be in effect and that previous assertion may not hold true come July 1st.  Sea Cargo Inc. is committed to our clients safe, reliable, and efficient movement of goods by utilizing the proper planning and setting up correct arrangements; this should minimize the risks such as potential additional costs or simply delays to cargo with this new regulation.  The best option to prevent delays and additional costs is having the proper procedures in place.  Sea Cargo Inc. has been diligently working with its network to be prepared for this opportunity and already has various plans in place depending on how the requirement will be implemented industrywide. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact one of the Sea Cargo Inc. shipping professionals to help you with one of your upcoming shipping opportunities.  

Sea Cargo Inc. Education Center: RO-RO; Roll-on Roll-off (shipping)

Roll On Roll Off (RO-RO) is a category of ships designed to load and discharge cargo which rolls on wheels onto the vessel and rolls off the vessel. A RO-RO vessel has a hinged ramp, typically offset at the stern, that allows motor vehicles (automobiles, trailered boats, airplanes, farm tractors, trucks, trailers, self-  propelled machinery etc.) to be driven on and off the vessel. Some cargo may be too tall to strangely shaped so it is more idea to utilize a crane and lift points to lift the cargo on and off but the principal is the same.

A RO-RO vessel differs from a traditional ferry in that a ferry is designed to carry vehicles and their Individual drives short to medium distances; in comparison a RO-RO vessel is designed to carry vehicles for wholesale or resale and transport the vehicles without drivers for long distances. For example, a RO-RO would be used by the various automobile manufacturer to transport large volumes of vehicles at a time across oceans to sell in various countries.

 RO-RO vessels would be compared to a floating parking structure and can have as many as nine interior decks connected by a series of interior ramp ways to allow the maximum volume of cargo. Cargo is secured inside the vessel during transport to prevent possible damage.


  RO-RO vessels, as described above, may also have deck cranes and/or the ability to carry standard ocean containers on their decks. This is advantageous to load different types of project freight such as oversize cargo can be loaded on flatbed or lowboy trailers or place on deck. This allows for maximum flexibility for moving various types of RO-RO or project freight. 


Advantages and Disadvantages of RO-RO

Advantage: Large Project Cargo does do not need to be dismantled and loaded into a container, which also means it does not need to be unloaded reassembled at its destination. This again can be ideal for different types of cargo moves because it allows the cargo to be useable and ready for sale once it has cleared customs and standard inspection for the port country along with generally being able to take heavier loads. 

Disadvantage: Cost may be higher if cargo is incorrectly configuration. Not all ports have RORO services. Containerization can be more advantageous if there depending on urgency for cargo because time and cost of unloading and reassembly based on project needs. 

Ask your Sea Cargo Inc. Shipping professional for recommendations on your specific shipping needs because full or partial RORO shipping is available based on project needs, requirements, or limitations. 



Sea Cargo Inc.: MEGASHIPS and Their Effects on US Port Infrastructure

                The US West Coast was recently introduced to newly finished megaships. These recently completed container carrying vessels are now capable of managing close to 19,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, and even larger vessels are due to be released within the next few years. These ships built were with the concept in mind of maximize cargo and fuel efficiency while reducing emissions. While this goal has been achieved, unforeseen areas of concern have begun to arise across East and West Coast ports in the US. As container vessels continue to grow in size, many ports are running into problems with limitations of the ports’ infrastructure. These issues are currently height limitations of bridges to allow these taller ships to travel beneath them, limited dock space to unload cargo, gantry cranes at a height they could unload fully loaded mega ships, and even the depth of certain ports. Labor organizations and railroad crews are also having difficulty managing the new overload of containerized cargo. These pertinent issues have brought new and necessary renovations to various ports including both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.  Other required upgrades to the ports will include the replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge for being too low as well as expansions in cargo handling at the Trapac Terminal.


                The US East Coast is feeling a similar pressure to modernize their ports to welcome these new larger vessels as well. Currently, the Port of Savannah is in the midst of updating their crane operations to increase the container moves per hour to mitigate loading and offloading delays during port calls. Also, the Bayonne Bridge, which connects New Jersey to Staten Island, is undergoing remodeling in order to accommodate the proper clearance for these taller container vessels. While many of these port modifications are necessary, many analysts are saying these renovations are far past due, and the construction process is actually leading to further cargo delay during the offloading process. Terminal congestion along with altered receiving hours and dates have already been felt as port workers try to manage the glut of containers. Going forward renovation efforts are currently underway to upgrade ports, bridges, and various infrastructure to better handle cargo which will ultimately streamline the process giving the most competitive shipping prices. 

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