If you and your business rely on international ocean freight shipping, this is news you can use.

Beginning July 1, 2016, all packed shipping containers must be accompanied by a shipping document that lists the verified gross mass (VGM) of a container before it can be loaded onto ships operated by flag states that are party to The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, which flags approximately 99 percent of the merchant ships in the world. The new standard is designed to ensure that ships are not overloaded and prone to sinking.

As a result, each shipper of origin, no matter where in the world they may be, is required to declare in writing the verified size of every ocean shipment, both LCL (less than container load) and FCL (full container load).

“Several customers have asked us why this new regulation was added,” said Chris Cser, ICAT Logistics Detroit Director of International.  “The reason is simple: It was added to help ensure the safety of ships at sea, their crews and their cargo.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard: “misdeclared weights contributed to maritime incidents, such as the breakup and subsequent beaching of cargo vessels.”

Cser said there are two ways a shipper can determine the VGM:

  • Weigh a loaded container, subtracting the weight of the truck, chassis, and fuel to get the net weight of the loaded container.  Scales must be certified and calibrated in line with U.S. national standards. The VGM should show the gross weight of the cargo and a separate entry for the container tare weight.  The tare weight is shown on the door of each container.


  • Weigh all packages/cargo items, including packaging, pallet weights, dunnage, and other packing and securing materials. If shipper is loading a container, add that weight to the tare weight of the container.  Scales must be certified and calibrated in line with U.S. national standards.

To comply with the regulation, ICAT Logistics Detroit asks customers to submit a completed VGM certificate at the time it receives booking confirmation of shipments.  That will give it time to provide the completed certificate to the shipping line.

If you do not have your own VGM Certificate form, download the sample SOLAS VGM Certificate you can use below.

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VGM Certificate