SOLAS Regulation – Methods for obtaining the verified gross mass of a packed container as seen on the World Shipping Councils website.
4.1 The SOLAS regulations prescribe two methods by which the shipper may obtain the verified gross mass of a packed container.
Method No. 1:
Upon the conclusion of packing and sealing a container and using calibrated and certified equipment, the shipper may weigh, or have arranged that a third party weigh, the packed container. SOLAS Regulation, paragraph 4.1; IMO Guidelines, paragraph 5.1.1. The scale, weighbridge, lifting equipment or other devices used to verify the gross mass of the container must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the State in which the equipment is being used. IMO Guidelines, paragraph 7.1.
Method No. 1 is appropriate to use for any packed container and any kind of goods.
Method No. 2:
The shipper (or, by arrangement of the shipper, a third party) may weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses of the container’s contents.
IMO Guidelines, paragraph 5.1.2.
The weighing equipment used to weigh the contents of the container must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the State in which the equipment is being used. IMO Guidelines, paragraph 7.1.
The tare mass of the particular container is visible on the exterior of the container and should be used. IMO Guidelines, paragraph 12.1.
Estimating the weight of a container’s contents is not permitted.
The party packing the container cannot use the weight somebody else has provided, except in one specific set of defined circumstances where the cargo has been previously weighed and that weight is clearly and permanently marked on the surface of the goods.
The exception is as follows: “Individual, original sealed packages that have the accurate mass of the packages and cargo items (including any other material such as packing material and refrigerants inside the packages) clearly and permanently marked on their surfaces, do not need to be weighed again when they are packed into the container.” IMO Guidelines, paragraph 220.127.116.11 (underlining added). This does not permit estimating the cargo weight, but permits using accurate weights that have been previously derived from weighing the product and that are clearly and permanently marked on individual, original sealed packages. For example, a shipper of identical television sets whose individual cartons are marked by the manufacturer with the shipping weight could calculate the shipment’s weight by multiplying the number of television sets in the container by the weight of an individual set, and then adding that weight to the combined calculated weight of the packaging, pallets, packing and bracing material used and the container’s tare weight. This approach has four required elements. It only applies to: 1) original, sealed packages, 2) that have been previously weighed, 3) with the accurate mass clearly and permanently marked on their surfaces, and, 4) such weights being added to the calculated weight of all packing, securing and other material that may have been used in the packing of the container.
Method No. 2 is “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.”
IMO Guidelines, paragraph 18.104.22.168. Method No. 2 is also inappropriate for “flexitanks”. For such cargoes, Method No. 1 must be used.
The method used for weighing the container’s contents under Method No. 2 is subject to certification and approval as determined by the competent authority of the State in which the packing and sealing of the container was completed.
IMO Guidelines, paragraph 22.214.171.124. Shippers are responsible for complying with any certification and approval requirements that may be established by the State in which the container packing is done, or, in a case where a container is packed in multiple places, any certification and approval requirements that may be established by the State where the last contents were packed into the container.
4.2 Regardless of whether Method No. 1 or Method No. 2 is used to obtain the verified weight of the container —
The SOLAS amendments and the IMO Guidelines are clear that the shipper named on the ocean carrier’s bill of lading is the party responsible for providing the packed container’s verified gross mass.
IMO Guidelines, paragraph 5.1.3. Thus, for example, if a freight forwarder/NVOCC is co-loading the cargo shipments of other freight forwarders in a container, the “master” forwarder named on the ocean carrier’s bill of lading is the party responsible for the accurate cargo weight verification of all the cargo and all packing or securing material from all the co-loading forwarders using the container.
The carrier and terminal operator may rely on a shipper’s signed container weight verification to be accurate. The carrier and the terminal operator are not responsible for verifying the shipper’s weight verification. Nor do the SOLAS amendments or IMO Guidelines require a carrier or terminal operator to verify that a shipper providing a verified weight according to Method 2 has used a method which has been certified and approved by the competent authority of the jurisdiction in which the packing and sealing of the container was completed. However, for the shipper’s weight verification to be compliant with the SOLAS requirements, it must be “signed”, meaning a specific person representing the shipper must be named and identified as having verified the accuracy of the weight calculation on behalf of the shipper.
“The shipping document shall be: .1 signed by a person duly authorized by the shipper; and .2 submitted to the master or his representative …” SOLAS Chapter VI, Regulation 2, paragraph 5. “This document can be part of the shipping instructions to the shipping company or a separate communication (e.g., a declaration including a weight certificate produced by a weigh station).” IMO Guidelines, paragraph 2.1.13. “[T]he document should clearly highlight that the gross mass provided is the “verified gross mass” as defined in paragraph 2.1.” IMO Guidelines, paragraph 6.1. “Irrespective of its form, the document declaring the verified gross mass of the packed container should be signed by a person duly authorized by the shipper. The signature may be an electronic signature or may be replaced by the name in capitals of the person authorized to sign it.” IMO Guidelines, paragraph6.2.
Weights obtained by weighing the entire packed container under Method 1 or by weighing the contents of the container and adding those weights to the container tare weight under Method 2 are to be as accurate as the scales or weighing devices used, which must meet the applicable accuracy standards and requirements of the State in which the equipment is being used. Some cargo products may incur normal, minor changes in weight from the time of packing until delivery (e.g., due to evaporation, humidity changes, ice melt from fresh food products packed in ice, etc.) and some containers’ tare weight may change over time and vary somewhat from the tare weight painted on the container; however, these variations should not present safety concerns.
The party or parties packing the container should follow the provisions of the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code) in relation to load distribution and safe packing of the container. (
See, page 11 for a link to the CTU Code and CTU Code Informative Materials.)
4.3 A shipper’s participation or approval under a Customs authority’s Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) or similar program does not modify or exempt the shipper from required compliance with the SOLAS requirements. Such status might be a relevant factor in a State’s certification and approval requirements for Method No. 2 shippers. Shippers should be aware of any such applicable national requirements.
4.4 If a carrier or terminal operator has reason to believe that the verified weight of the container provided by the shipper is significantly in error, they may take such steps as may be appropriate in the interest of safety to determine what the accurate weight is. The terms of such arrangements and the recovery of the costs involved in any steps for obtaining an accurate weight are commercial matters for the parties to address.