30 June 2016 by Tom Goulding

Exporters face container weight rules from July

New rules ensuring shipping lines verify the weight of containers before they are shipped could create extra costs and even disruption for some UK waste and recycling exporters from tomorrow (1 July).

The International Maritime Organisation has amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) so that containers are required to have a verified gross mass (VGM) before they are loaded on to a ship.

From 1 July, new rules aimed at preventing exporters misdeclaring container weights will come into force

From 1 July, new rules aimed at preventing exporters misdeclaring container weights will come into force

The amendment – which was passed in 2014 to prevent overweight containers causing maritime accidents – will affect the whole global export supply chain, including shippers, freight forwarders, vessel operators and terminal operators.

Shippers will be provided with two methods to determine the container weight once the packing process has taken place.

The first involves the shipper weighing or arranging a third party to weigh the container once packed and sealed. The second solution involves weighing all packages and cargo items separately before adding the tare mass of the container to the sum of the container’s contents.

A three-month grace period will apply from Friday allowing exporters to get to grips with the new requirement. However, after this time failure to weigh a container could land the shipper with a hefty fine or a custodial sentence of up to two years.


Jody Cleworth of Marine Transport International said that despite sailings due to occur from 1-3 July, there is still confusion over how the weighting will be applied at ports in the UK.

As well as the issue of increased costs, UK recyclers could also have to contend with delays in communication between the shipping line and the terminal – leading to material building up at ports or even being sent back.

Mr Cleworth said: “The entire waste industry has responded to this, but the problem that has ensued is it’s a lot more work for logistics. There is a weight solution of £24 per container plus admin charges of one pound before the gate and three pounds after the gate. If you misdeclare [the weight] you are then penalised and it starts to get quite expensive.”

He added: “The larger waste companies have actually employed more people to do this work. The more containers you move the more risk you have.”


However, some waste exporters are less concerned by the changes. Simon Marsden, commercial director at Recycling UK, told letsrecycle.com that nearly all export containers are already weighed on a weighbridge prior to leaving British shores.

He continued: “I don’t think it’s going to make any difference, it’s aimed more at misdeclared general cargo rather than waste. It could mean more paperwork and there could be a time lag on communications, but the majority of shipping lines need their containers back from India, back from China, back from Korea. They won’t be hanging around.”


  • Marine Transport International has launched – SOLAS VGM – a software app, in a bid to minimise the disruption. Commenting on the product, Mr Cleworth said the technology would allow communication between the carrier and shipping line “within minutes” and by allowing weight data to be pre-entered at loading points.

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