A senior executive from APM Terminals, Praful Waghela, has spoken critically about verified gross mass (VGM) regulations in a new video (below) released by the global terminal operator.
Since the two years since the introduction of container weight regulations, the Global Product Manager VGM Services at APM Terminals has found that the industry “appears” to have achieved compliance, but that “the accuracy of recorded weights still needs attention”.
“It is crucial that all stakeholders across the supply chain are engaged to ensure safe operations and avoid any incidents,” said Waghela, whose ideal scenario to guarantee 100% accuracy would be to see all containers weighed using calibrated and certified weighing facilities at terminals.
Since July 2016, VGM has been a requirement under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
In a statement, APM Terminals said that while most of its facilities are equipped with calibrated and certified facilities to record and transmit accurate VGM to shipping lines, “many” containers weighed at factories or on the way to terminals fail to comply with local regulations and tolerance levels.
APM Terminals carries out random checks to confirm the VGMs supplied by a third party are within an acceptable tolerance level and corrects them where necessary.
However, this means that some containers with inaccurate weights may slip through.
Praful Waghela on the value of VGM services:
“These inaccurate VGMs can lead to serious safety issues if not corrected early in the supply chain,” said Waghela. “Being unable to rely 100% on the VGM supplied, means that the regulation hasn’t yet achieved is goal.”
As part of its continuous improvement process for safety, the company is continually looking to identify areas of risk.
In some scenarios identified by APM Terminals inaccurate VGMs have increased risk.
“Operators of, for example, deck cranes may be tempted to trust the VGM and override the crane’s overweight load alarm,” said Waghela.
APM Terminals has since made technical and procedural changes, with specific crane types automatically shutting down when excess weight is measured, pending further investigation.
APM Terminals has certified trainers who evaluate local crane operators’ skill levels and conduct bi-annual emergency drills for the vessel operations team.
Estimates place the annual number of containers in the global supply chain at more than 135 million containers and, even if a small proportion of these have inaccurate weight estimates, it poses a significant safety risk.
Waghela added: “We all have a responsibility to take VGM seriously and have accurate container weight details, to ensure our employees get home safe every day.”