Mandatory Container Regulation to Take Effect in July 2016

March 16, 2015

Container weight verification for shipping will become legally binding on July 1, 2016. If you do not know about this new policy change, familiarize yourself with the information below so you can avoid delays and extra costs during the height of the summer moving season.

The purpose of the new regulation is to better secure the entire container supply chain by lessening the number of accidents caused by incorrectly weighed and misdeclared containers. Both the vessel and terminal operators will be required to use verified container weights in vessel stowage plans. If containers do not have verified weights, the vessel operator and marine terminal operators will be prohibited from loading the packed container and it will not be shipped.

In an interview with the Journal of Commerce (JOC), Chris Welsh, secretary general of the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF), stated, “At the most basic level, the risk is [that] your container won’t get shipped. It would be turned away from the terminal. So the commercial impact is a dissatisfied customer.”

There are two methods allowed. You can (1) weigh the entire container, or (2) weigh the individual items and compile the weights of the items in the container. In order to comply with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirement, says the World Shipping Council (WSC), “The master or his representative and the terminal representative [must] have obtained, in advance of vessel loading, the verified actual gross mass of the container” or the container will not be loaded.

From what we have been able to discern, “in advance of vessel loading” will be determined by each shipping line in coordination with the ports and terminal operators.In a distribution circulated December 2015,industry trade groups for shipping line industry including WSC and GSF stated the following:

Verified gross mass is required in order to prepare the stowage plan of the ship prior to loading. 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. It is recognized that ‘just in time’ shipments will need specific coordination between the shipper and carrier to ensure that the objectives of SOLAS are met and the verified gross mass for such shipments is communicated and used in the ship stowage plan. (Verified Gross Mass Industry FAQs)

A full summary and accompanying resources on this issue can also be viewed on the WSC website.

Finally, under this mandate, the shipper is responsible for compliance. Welsh, in the JOC interview, defined the shipper as “a legal entity or person named on the bill of lading, or transport document.” In general, he said, “The person who enters into the contract of carriage with the ship-owner (and) whose name appears on the bill of lading or the transport document will be treated as the actual shipper,” and is therefore responsible for compliance with the mandate.

According to two trade groups, the WSC and the GSF, the implementation of this mandate on July 1, 2016, is not likely to be delayed or postponed. Bison Group Limited , a manufacturer of weighing equipment, has provided a few helpful hints and tips to help you prepare for the regulation:

•      Review your current shipping procedure against the new rules.

•      Assess the alternative weighing options.

•      Upgrade equipment.

•      Modify contract arrangements.

•      Adapt information systems.

•      Implement necessary operational changes.


IAM strongly recommends that you contact your representatives at the shipping lines or the freight forwarders with whom your company works to see how they intend to comply with this mandate so you can start making the proper arrangements.

In recent weeks, the US Coast Guard, the entity charged with enforcing the SOLAS treaty in the USA, has advised that they will not enforce the container weighing mandate and will leave it to shippers to work with the shipping lines on this issue. Other countries, however, are either passing legislation or regulations, which will enable them to assess fines or other punitive actions against non-compliant shippers.

The IAM Commercial Affairs Committee is monitoring this issue and will issue updates when necessary. Should you have any questions, please contact IAM Programs Director Brian Limperopulos at