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TT Club seeks to calm the troubled waters of VGM on the eve of effective date

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Peregrine Storrs-Fox

Peregrine Storrs-Fox

With the effective date of the container weighing regulation, known as Verified Gross Mass (VGM), at hand, the freight insurance specialist TT Club is accentuating the positive and assures the industry that help remains available.  The mutual insurer, which sees VGM as one of the key safety measures for container operations worldwide, has published a pithy, user-friendly summary for all those involved

London 30 June 2016

Clarity is what TT Club believes is required when tackling the amendment to SOLAS[1], requiring a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for all packed containers loaded onto ships from 1st July.  Clarity and collaboration.

The mutual insurer’s latest pithy, ‘Stakeholder digests’, providing guidance to the regulation and how it affects various parties in the container supply chain, from shippers to forwarders and terminals though to carriers, has been made available on its website[2].  The guidance is simple to follow and seeks to build on the everyday cooperation between all stakeholders in the diverse and efficient containerised industry that exists today.

In launching the Stakeholder digests, as part of an extensive micro-site on container weighing, TT Club’s Peregrine Storrs-Fox commented, “VGM is a safety initiative that many in the industry have been seeking. TT Club’s commitment continues, its discussions with industry figures having started years before the initiation of the work at the IMO[3]. In a true spirit of collaboration, representatives of all parties involved in the container trades have been consulted during the four years of IMO debate.  The regulation, effective tomorrow, is the result of an industry working together to improve safety, efficiency and its own professional practices.”

Reaction from many quarters of the industry has been positive, engaging to resolve the complexity and potential difficulties.  According to the regulation VGM shall be obtained either by weighing the packed container [‘Method 1’] or weighing all constituent parts in the load [‘Method 2’].  A substantial number of container terminals around the world have now announced arrangements to assist shippers with ‘Method 1’.

Shipping lines are posting the tare weights of their containers online to assist with the calculation inherent in ‘Method 2’, a compromise process that was included in the SOLAS amendment as a result of shipper representation.  Furthermore, BIC[4] has announced the launch of its ‘Technical Characteristics Database’[5], intended to provide easy access to tare information. Thus, while harmony will never reign supreme in any industry, the container business has come together well in this case.

On the other hand Government bodies, the competent authorities to which the IMO is looking to consistently enforce the regulation across the globe have been surprisingly reticent.  Despite encouragement from the IMO for governments to communicate fully with industry stakeholders, around 80% of SOLAS signatory States have yet to publish guidance on national implementation. There are, of course, notable exceptions, where national competent authorities have engaged actively with industry and other maritime administrations to ensure common understanding of the processes and interpretation of the regulation.

Consistency, however, across the international governmental spectrum has been lacking, causing much frustration. TT Club highlights the less-than-helpful and confusing messages from some governmental bodies.  It has, therefore, been left to industry partners to step into the breach and provide practical support for implementation of this mandatory international regulation. Working with World Shipping Council, ICHCA and Global Shippers’ Forum, TT Club has twice published ‘Industry FAQs’, however, it is recognised that national governmental authorities and enforcement officers will ultimately be responsible for final interpretation.

Collaboration across the container industry remains key, since it epitomises the ‘global village’. For TT Club, Storrs-Fox concludes, “The broad safety issues that VGM goes part way to addressing should be our chief concern.”

[1] International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 as amended

2 www.ttclub.com/loss-prevention/container-weighing/stakeholders-digest

International Maritime Organization

⁴ Bureau International des Containers et du Transport Intermodal


TT Club

TT Club is the international transport and logistics industry’s leading provider of insurance and related risk management services. Established in 1968, the Club’s membership comprises ship operators, ports and terminals, road, rail and airfreight operators, logistics companies and container lessors. As a mutual insurer, the Club exists to provide its policyholders with benefits, which include specialist underwriting expertise, a world-wide office network providing claims management services, and first class risk management and loss prevention advice.

Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller is an independent and international provider of insurance, professional and investment services.

Founded in 1885, Thomas Miller’s origins are in the provision of management services to mutual organisations, particularly in the international transport and professional indemnity sectors; where today they manage a large percentage of the foremost insurance mutuals. Thomas Miller also manages insurance facilities for all the self employed barristers in England & Wales, as well as trustees of pension schemes, patent agents and housing associations.

Principle activities include:

  • Management services for transport and professional indemnity insurance mutuals
  • Investment management for institutions and private clients
  • Professional services
  • Building defects insurance


[1] International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 as amended

[3] International Maritime Organization

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