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LONDON: September 29, 2016. Freight insurer TT Club says the compliance rate for verifying the gross mass of an ocean container "is as high as 95 percent", citing World Shipping Council (WSC) data.

This follows a three-month settling-in period suggested by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to its 171 Member States that ends October 01.

DP world containerThe WSC told an IMO sub-committee meeting in early September that the requirement for shippers to produce a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for each packed container tendered to its member lines for shipment had been met "without any appreciable disruptions to international containerized supply chains".

"This high degree of awareness of VGM requirements and the outward signs of compliance are indeed encouraging," commented TT Club Risk Management director Peregrine Storrs-Fox. "However it remains to be seen whether the declared VGMs are accurate, representing the result of an actual weighing process, regardless which of the two permissible methods is adopted."

Acknowledging that terminal operators and carriers have been talking with shippers since July, the TT Club director noted there was anecdotal evidence to suggest shippers are simply adding the tare mass of the container to the previously declared weight of the cargo to arrive at a VGM.

"While it is positive that shippers recognize the difference between bill of lading or Customs declaration weights and [the] VGM, it is insufficient just to add the container mass. The industry needs the comfort of authenticated VGMs comparing the actual mass of packed containers obtained by check-weighing in order to have a true picture of compliance," he said.

The WSC has also reported that some terminals have not implemented the recommended BAPLIE 2.2 EDIFACT message format, which fundamentally restricts their ability to communicate VGMs to carriers and thus make it harder to demonstrate compliance and avoid penalties.

"There will remain a need for regulators the world over to continue their work in arriving at a uniform standard of enforcement, including consistency in the degree of latitude given to non-compliant shippers. Even now, there would be value in providing national guidance on such matters, where it has yet to be given," declared Storrs-Fox.

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