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SOLAS: the Safety of Life at Sea Convention

SOLAS requirement

The International Maritime Organization has amended the Safety of Life Sea Convention to require, as a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that the container has a verified weight. The shipper is responsible for the verification of the packed container’s weight. This requirement became legally effective on July 1, 2016. After that date, it would be a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container onto a vessel if the vessel operator and marine terminal operator don’t have a verified container weight.


Here are the basic principles under the SOLAS requirement

  1. Before a packed container can be loaded onto a ship, its weight must be determined through weighing. It is a violation of SOLAS to load a packed container on board a vessel to which SOLAS applies without a weight verification.
  2. Under the SOLAS amendments, there are two permissible methods of weighing: the first one requires weighing the container after it has been packed; the second one requires weighing all cargo and contents of the container and adding that weight to the container’s tare weight as indicated on the door end of the container.
  3. Estimating weight is not permitted and the shipper has the responsibility to weight the packed container to fix its contents.
  4. A carrier may rely on a shipper’s signed weight verification to be accurate. The carrier does not need to be a verifier of the shipper’s weight verification. The shipper’s weight verification must be signed, it means that a specific person representing the shipper is named and identified as having verified the accuracy of the weight calculation on behalf of the shipper.
  1. The lack of a signed shipper weight verification can be remedied by weighing the packed container at the port. If the marine terminal doesn’t have equipment to weight the container the packed container may not be loaded on to the ship.
  2. When a marine terminal receives a packed export container that doesn’t have a signed shipper weight verification, there will need to be processes in place at the terminal.
  3. If a packed container is weighed at the load port, that weight is to be used for vessel stow planning.
  4. Vessel stow plans should use verified weights for all packed containers loaded on board.


The origin of that international convention comes from the Titanic disaster in 1912, one of the first maritime disasters in history and the first discussed by the media. Two years later the first version of the convention was approved: there were just a few pages, but it showed the will to create some regulation to help reduce the dangers of maritime life.




Source: World Shipping Council  




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