Monday, 20 June 2016

MPA release guidance of SOLAS regulation VI/2 on verified gross mass of containers

June 20, 2016. 

On 27 May 2016, the MPA issued Shipping Circular No.12 of 2016 concerning the implementation of SOLAS Regulation VI/2 on Verified Gross Mass of Containers (“VGM”) which will come into operation on 1 July 2016. Circular No.12 of 2016 is limited to export containers and does not apply to containers that are transhipped in Singapore.

One of the key amendments relates to the requirement of the gross mass of the container to be verified by the shipper prior to loading on a ship. In Singapore, the verification of the gross mass of a packed container shall be obtained by either of the following two methods.

Method 1:  Weighing the packed container using a weighing instrument that has been verified by an Authorised Verifier designated by SPRING Singapore under the Singapore Weights and Measures program; or

Method 2:   Weighing the individual packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other weighing instruments that have been verified by an Authorised Verifier designated by SPRING Singapore under the Singapore Weights and Measures program, and adding the sum to the ‘tare’ mass (i.e. unladen weight) of the container.

The shipper must maintain records of the weighing process to ensure that the process used to derive the VGM is traceable. Such records should trail the process and document details of the equipment used to demonstrate compliance with either Method 1 or 2.

Unlike in other jurisdictions, the MPA does not require the shipper to be registered as a shipper or be pre-approved for the use of either method. Further, the MPA does not require the shipper to be accredited to show compliance with the prescribed weighing methods. The shipper must, however, exercise due diligence when obtaining VGMs of packed containers and must ensure compliance with one of the two methods.

All containers arriving at terminals in Singapore for export are weighed using the weighbridges located at the terminal gates. The obtained weights may be utilized for the purposes of counter checking the declared VGMs. Although SOLAS regulation VI/2 does not provide for any margin of error in the VGM, the MPA, taking on board the industry’s recommendations, will at present, allow a margin of error of +/- 5% of the declared VGM. In the event that the declared VGM is outside of this margin, it will be turned away and will not be loaded on  a vessel. Terminal operators will also inform MPA in the event of serious breaches of a shipper’s obligation to provide an accurate VGM. 

The MPA will adopt a practical and pragmatic approach when verifying compliance with the new regulations for a period of three months after 1 July 2016, however, the stakeholders are still required to comply with the new requirements starting from 1 July 2016, in other words, if no VGM is provided the container will not be loaded onto a vessel.

The Singapore MPA’s website now includes a helpful “Q&A” Section providing answers to some frequently asked questions. Queries relating to the implementation of the new regulations should be directed to Mr Calvin Lee (Tel: +65 63756269 Email: for shipping matters or Ms Zhou Peijun (Tel: +65 63252451 Email: on local export related matters.

With the implementation date just a few weeks away, we strongly advise all stakeholders to familiarise themselves with both the SOLAS Regulation itself as well as the relevant procedures required by MPA.

Whilst the IMO are urging enforcement authorities to take a “practical and pragmatic” approach to the new Regulation in its early months, it would be unwise to take too much comfort from this proclamation. The law reports are littered with judgments where adherence to the law is preferred by judges to commercial pragmatism. Compliance, as opposed to complacency will better serve business in the long run.


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