Bangladesh’s maritime administrator has moved to strictly enforce Verified Gross Mass (VGM) requirements for containers amid increasing incidents in Chittagong port and beyond.

On Tuesday the ship registrar of Bangladesh ordered all concerned to comply with VGM requirements as per the SOLAS convention, and port state control officers have been asked to verify loading conditions in three stages during a container’s transfer to vessel.

In August last year, the 1,700 teu OEL Hind, carrying 1,200 containers, developed a list just before departure, due to the wrong placement of containers, and had to wait three days at its berth while the container stacks were rearranged.

And that incident was not the first of its type in Chittagong.

Under VGM regulations, the ship master and terminal manager must be given container weight details before handling the boxes. But at Chittagong, this is rarely followed, with many containers arriving at the loading point at the last moment, meaning boxes cannot be loaded on vessels in a planned way, maintaining weight balance properly, officials said.

Principal officer at the mercantile marine office Giashuddin Ahmed told The Loadstar that, after the incident in August, his office issued reminders to shippers to follow the VGM regulations.

“But we noticed that none paid heed to our notice,” he said.

Capt Ahmed said the department of shipping had approved 32 companies to work in inland container depots with machines and provide certificates after weighing containers. After that, the port management has to check whether containers entering the port weigh the same as recorded in the certificates.

Following that, the ship master has to be given list of containers with proper descriptions far earlier, so proper stowage plans can be drawn up.

“We can no longer believe and depend on port officials,” said Capt Ahmed, “so now our officials will visit the port more often and, if required, will arrest vessels.”

He said said failure to comply with VGM requirements could result in substantial deviation between the declared gross mass of a container and its actual gross mass,  the cause of several shipping casualties when the actual weight distribution onboard differed from the stowage plan of the ship.

“Unaccounted deviations in container gross mass may result in stack collapses, lost containers and damage to ships, cargo and environment” he said, resulting also in economic losses and supply chain disruption.

“If such incidents… take place due to non-compliance with VGM requirements, Bangladeshi ports can be blacklisted by the IMO,” he warned.

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