New SOLAS Regulation

How New Requirements Will Impact International Shipments

SOLAS (the “Safety of Life at Sea” Convention) is an international maritime safety convention. Its main objective is to specify minimum safety standards related to construction, equipment and operation of ships. SOLAS is administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, with more than 150 contracting States that flag about 99% of merchant ships, in terms of gross tonnage, around the world.

In November 2014 the IMO amended SOLAS by requiring a packed container’s gross mass be verified prior to stowage aboard a ship. According to guidance issued by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (“MSC”), “verified gross mass” means the total gross mass of a packed container as obtained by one of two methods specified by the regulations, (described below). The new requirements will become effective on July 1, 2016 in all of SOLAS’ signatory countries.

  • The first method is that the shipper may weigh or have a third party weigh the packed, sealed container over a scale or weighbridge while in route.
  • Alternatively, the shipper may weigh or have a third party weigh each package, including the packing and securingmaterials, and add the total of those cumulative weights to the container’s tare weight to obtain the verified gross weight of the container.

All weighing equipment must meet the national calibration and certification requirements of the origin country’s government authority.

SOLAS was amended to require verification of gross container weight prior to shipping to positively impact the safety of workers, ships and cargo. The results of gross miss-declarations are believed to lead to dangerous conditions for terminals, vessels and their crews. For example, the MSC Napoli ran into trouble and was abandoned in the English Channel in January 2007. The vessel incurred serious damage leaving it beached off the coast of England. The U.K.’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s investigation found that discrepancies between the declared weight and the actual weight of the containers stowed on the vessel were partially to blame.

Household goods customers utilize the services of moving companies to load and forward their property. The “Shipper” (or by arrangement of the Shipper, a third-party) will be responsible to communicate the verified weight of a packed container in advance of stowage to the ship’s master and terminal representative. Guidelines issued by MSC define a “shipper” as the legal entity or person named on the master bill of lading or sea waybill. A “master” forwarders (named on an ocean carrier’s bill of lading) is responsible for the accurate weight verification of all co-forwarders using the container, if any, and should not simply pass on cargo weights declared by those other forwarders.

Practically, terminals may choose to hold a container or return it to a shipper that has failed to provide a compliant verified weight prior to stowage. In either event, neither the terminal nor the ship’s master should permit stowage of the container without the verified weight. At minimum, this will delay shipments; port storage and demurrage may be applied as well. It is not yet clear whether or not fines will be assessed.

However, ultimate official responsibility for enforcement of these requirements, including establishment of any weight variance levels and/or assessment of any fines or penalties, lies with the government of the country of origin, meaning that enforcement of the new SOLAS requirements may likely be inconsistent across countries, carriers and terminals.

As the industry continues to review and evaluate the new regulations, we will continue to keep you updated with the latest developments. For additional information please contact us at info(at)

This communication contains a general description of recent SOLAS regulation developments and does not constitute business or legal advice by UTS GmbH & Co. KG. You should consult with your own business and legal advisors with regard to the matters which are described above.