VGM FAQ / Weight Verification Requirement 

Request recorded webinar


For anyone in the global trade industry, it is no surprise there is a delay option on the anticipated SOLAS  Verified Gross Mass (VGM) or Weight Verification requirement. This has been an International Maritime Organization topic since 2013.  In 2014, The Maritime Safety Committee of the IMO approved guidelines, and the Verified Gross Mass requirement became real in 2015 when the IMO decided on an implementation date for July 1, 2016.  With many issues left in a gray area and frustrated parties across the industry, the VGM or Weight Verification requirement continues to be a hot topic.  Please use the following guide to answer your questions.

Who created the rule?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Shipping Council, trade organizations that represent container liner companies, will require verification of container weights at origin set for July 1, 2016. The amendment created to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires the verified gross mass (VGM) of containers to be documented before they can be loaded on ships. [source]

When will the rule go into effect?

July 1, 2016 with the option for the signatory nation to delay implementation for up to one year. As long as the SOLAS signatory nation notifies the U.N. agency prior to July 1, then that nation can delay the requirement with the IMO for up to one year.  The United States Coast Guard will not delay the VGM rule, but will not hold shippers responsible for providing container weight documentation or penalize them.  The Coast Guard states that it is the carrier’s responsibility to enforce this.

Who is responsible?

Simply stated, the shipper name listed on the master bill of lading.  It may include of the following parties:

  • The beneficial cargo owner (owner of the goods; the exporter)
  • The non vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) or
  • The master loader: entity that consolidates various shippers’ cargo

What does the requirement entail and what are the consequences?

Shippers will be required to declare and verify container weights prior to shipping.  If a container is overweight or shippers do not comply with the new regulation, they could face delays, fines, or penalties.   This is critical to shippers, as they do not want to incur extra costs, delay a shipment, or upset a customer. [source]

According to JOC, the U.S. Coast Guard states, “Any fiscal punishment for failing to provide a VGM or providing an inaccurate VGM will be in the carriers’ hands. That’s different than Canada’s take, which will level fines on shippers without VGMs.” [source]

The U.S. Coast Guard is now saying it is up to the carrier to confirm that the VGM a shipper declares is accurate and the U.S. Coast Guard agency itself will not be assessing any penalties or fines. [source]

A packed container must be weighed prior to loading the vessel.  If the actual gross mass of the container weight is not verified and submitted to the terminal prior to vessel loading, it will not be loaded or at least flagged as “unsafe.” There are two methods to weighing listed below.

How to verify Weight:

Two methods.

 Click image to view Journal of Commerce's full infographic and weighing reference guide.

Click image to view Journal of Commerce’s full infographic and weighing reference guide.

Method 1:  requires weighing the container, normally when it is empty; then again after loading.

**Bulk cargo such as scrap metal, unbagged grain MUST be weighed by this method.

Method 2: requires weighing the cargo and contents of the container and adding those weights to the tare weight of the container.

Note: No weight estimation allowed.

Under either Method, the weighing equipment used must meet certification and calibration requirements. Further, the party packing the container cannot use the weight somebody else has provided, except in one specific set of defined circumstances.

The one exception is as follows: “Individual, original sealed packages that have the accurate mass of the packages, packing contents and cargo items clearly and permanently marked on their surfaces, do not need to be weighed again when they are packed into the container.” (ex. TV’s that have their weight marked by the manufacturer on the box containing the TV). [source]


How to find certified weighing facilities:

Some countries plan to provide these services at the port.  The only U.S. port that has this capability at this point in time is Charleston Port.

Photo Source:

What is the deadline to supply the VGM to the terminal?

This is still to be determined on an international level.  Deadlines will differ according to a number of factors; shippers should obtain information on documentary cut-off times from their carriers in advance of shipment.

How to communicate VGM:

There is no particular form mandated to communicate VGM.  However, one person with a first and last name as the signature (not just the company name), must submit information and sign on behalf of the shipper.  This can be done on the shipper’s letter of instructions or in a bill of lading, for example. To read more, click here.

At the moment, there is no universal electronic way to send this data to the carriers.  Furthermore, there is no specific cut off time that a VGM must be submitted to a carrier.  Both elements are “being worked on” by carriers.


What Scarbrough plans to do for our U.S. export clients:

scarbrough_fb_thumbAs an industry leader in compliance, Scarbrough has already began working with our clients and submitting weight verification.  Our truck bill of lading forms are being used as a dual purpose for both a truck bill of lading and a weight verification certificate. Clients fill out these forms, verify the weight, add the container tare weight located on the rear of the container, then designate a person from the company to sign on behalf of the shipper.  The forms are then returned to Scarbrough, and Scarbrough submits them to the appropriate party.  Scarbrough actually submits these forms on the day of loading, which is well in advance of potential deadlines for VGM submission.  If you would like a copy of the form, please email or call 816.584.2408.


To learn more, attend our free webinar on March 9, 2016 @ 1:30 pm CST.  

Click to Register Now

Click to Submit Questions

Download Full VGM FAQ Guide



Splash 24/7


World Shipping Committee

American Shipper

Journal of Commerce

Journal of Commerce – US won’t delay

Journal of Commerce FAQ

STR Trade

Roanoke Group