Understanding VGM meaning: A complete guide

In the world of shipping and logistics, understanding the meaning of Verified Gross Mass (VGM) is an important part of getting your goods delivered safely and quickly. To help you, we’ve written this guide to provide a comprehensive overview of VGM, explaining its definition, significance and regulatory background. 

We’ll also cover methods for calculating and documenting VGM, the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders when it comes to using VGM and also some common challenges in VGM implementation. To find out more about how this statistic can affect you and your business, read on.

What is VGM in shipping? (VGM vs. gross weight)

Verified Gross Mass (VGM) is the total weight of a shipping container, including both its contents and tare weight. The VGM is a critical metric used to ensure safe stowage and transport of containers aboard ships. It differs from the gross weight, which typically refers only to the weight of the contents without the container’s tare weight. So rather than the weight of just the good (cargo or goods) you want to ship, VGM includes the weight of the container itself too.

VGM was established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) amendments. This regulation mandates that shippers must provide an accurate VGM for each packed container before it can be loaded onto a vessel. Essentially, this measurement is used to prevent accidents caused by overweight or improperly balanced containers.

Why is VGM important?

The importance of VGM in shipping can’t be overstated. Accurate VGM information on every cargo in sea freight is essential for several reasons:

  1. Safety: Proper weight distribution on a vessel is critical for maintaining stability and preventing accidents. Incorrect weight declarations can be very dangerous, so it’s vital to make sure every container is measured accurately.
  2. Regulatory compliance: SOLAS regulations make it mandatory for shippers to provide a verified weight for each container. Non-compliance can result in fines, delays and potentially other legal repercussions.
  3. Efficiency: Accurate VGM data allows shipping companies to plan stowage more efficiently, optimising space and minimising the risk of delays due to re-stowage.
  4. Cost management: Having a clear understanding of the meaning of shipping VGM helps reduce potential charges that can be incurred for misdeclared container weights, such as additional handling fees.

How to calculate VGM

There are two primary methods for calculating VGM as stipulated by the SOLAS regulations:

Weighing the entire container

This method involves weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment. This method is straightforward, but requires access to appropriate weighing equipment, as not all facilities will be able to give an accurate reading of such a large weight.

Calculating VGM

This involves weighing all individual items and packaging materials being loaded into the container, then adding these weights to the container’s tare weight. This method requires meticulous record-keeping and accurate weighing of each component but allows you to supply the VGM after the fact without needing to weigh the entire container.

Roles and responsibilities in VGM compliance

Once the VGM is calculated, it must be documented accurately and submitted to the shipping line in a timely manner. Ensuring VGM compliance is a collaborative effort involving several key stakeholders in the shipping process.

Shippers

The primary responsibility for providing accurate VGM lies with the shipper. Shippers must ensure that they use certified weighing equipment and methods to determine the VGM and that this information is correctly documented and submitted.

Carriers

Shipping lines or carriers must ensure that they receive VGM data for each container before loading. They are responsible for verifying the accuracy of the VGM information and planning the stowage of containers accordingly.

Terminal Operators

Terminal operators play a critical role in the handling and loading of containers. They must verify that VGM information is received and used correctly to prevent loading non-compliant containers.

Regulatory Authorities

Authorities are responsible for enforcing SOLAS regulations and may conduct audits or inspections to ensure compliance.

Common challenges in VGM implementation

Implementing and maintaining VGM compliance can present challenges such as:

  • Access to equipment: Not all facilities have access to certified weighing equipment, making it difficult for some shippers to accurately determine VGM.
  • Documentation accuracy: Ensuring that VGM information is accurately documented and submitted can be complex, particularly for large shipments with numerous items.
  • Coordination among stakeholders: Effective VGM compliance requires seamless coordination between shippers, carriers and terminal operators. Miscommunication when it comes to sharing VGM data can lead to operational inefficiencies that slow the process down.

How Stellar International can help you manage VGM

As a leading shipping and logistics company based in New Zealand, Stellar International has helped many partners navigate the complexities of VGM compliance. Our expertise ensures that your shipping operations are always safe, efficient and compliant with key international regulations, including VGM.

You can fill in our VGM Declaration form here to get started.

Our team can provide detailed guidance on calculating and documenting VGM, helping you choose the most suitable method for your needs. Stellar can also assist shipping partners with delivering accurate documentation of VGM data to shipping lines, reducing the risk of delays.

We focus on building great relationships with carriers, so we also have strong channels of communication for managing complicated processes such as VGM. You can count on us to make sure all the relevant stakeholders are involved in a timely fashion when organising VGM for your shipments.

Partner with Stellar for easier shipping today

Understanding the meaning of VGM and its implications is essential for anyone involved in shipping goods internationally. The SOLAS amendments have made VGM a mandatory requirement, and shippers must ensure they follow the correct methods and procedures for calculating and documenting this critical metric.

Stellar International is a trusted partner in achieving VGM compliance for many of our partners. Our comprehensive services ensure that your cargo is shipped safely, efficiently and in full compliance every time. Contact us today and experience the Stellar difference for yourself.