Worth the paper it is written on?

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

06 July 2016


Five days into the new regime on container weighing, it seems that the chaos predicted by shippers has not materialised and apart from one or two minor issues boxes seem to be arriving at ports with their VGM paperwork in order. Of course a piece of paper is not necessarily a guarantee that the rules have been followed to the letter. From bills of lading to seamen’s certificates of competency and just about every other certificate imaginable in shipping, fraud and errors are a fact of life. The VGM rule is one that has long been needed as the catalogue of incidents and cargo and ship losses have highlighted over nearly half a century. There should not really be a major problem meeting the regulations. Negotiating a weighbridge is not a particularly time consuming or expensive activity and such devices installed at inland container depots, ports and factory premises will recover their capital outlay within a short period with just a nominal charge. The proof of the effectiveness will however only come over time. One would hope that the safety improvement in shipping and also on roads to and from ports will be noticeable very quickly. But chance plays a big role in fatal accidents and it may be that at some time a major incident will reveal that shippers are still playing fast and loose with the safety of ships and the lives of seafarers. Until that happens the industry must hope that VGM documentation is worth much more than the paper it is written on.