Keeping Pace with SOLAS Amendment for Container Weight Requirements

With the revised Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) container weight verification requirements, containers and their contents must be weighed prior to loading the vessel. The regulation was prompted by improperly declared gross container masses which have led to stack collapses, vessel instability, injury to dock and vessel workers, damage to cargo, stress to ships and port machinery, insurance claims, added costs and substantial environmental impact.

In addition to the physical collection of a stuffed container weight, data must be transferred between parties. For example, using the information obtained by one of the two weight determination methods in effect for many countries, the data must be communicated to the carrier and must be signed. Although much of the information is transmitted via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the data may be shared at different times, include several formats and involve multiple protocols and standards between shippers, carriers, terminals and vessel operators.

The Descartes Verified Gross Mass™ (Descartes VGM™) solution offers VGM compliance with connectivity via the Descartes Global Logistics Network™ (Descartes GLN™). Our advanced solution connects to the largest number of ocean carriers available in the industry. In addition, Descartes VGM enables customers to reuse existing connectivity to send bookings and shipping instructions, receive status messages in return and more. A single communications channel offers connectivity to ocean carriers, multiple NVOCCs and other platforms, eliminating the need to access multiple carriers or systems with limited connectivity.

Descartes VGM uses the same Standard Message Format (SMF) as other solutions, which is then converted into the VERMAS message supported by the carrier. Response messages are processed and translated into the required SMF with additional mapping capabilities available to meet the unique needs of each business.

The solution also integrates the VGM electronic submission in our leading Broker & Forwarder Enterprise Systems and Transportation Management applications, allowing users to enter the required information and reuse data from existing fields. Our proven expertise enables businesses to leverage additional options and functionality via the Descartes GLN and other methods, providing a path for growth with the same technology provider, connections and framework.


  • Leverage a single EDI connection to access all connected carriers
  • Map data from existing systems to seamlessly transmit VGM data
  • Use existing Descartes GLN connectivity to transmit bookings and shipping instructions, and receive status messages in return
  • Use a neutral platform to connect to both carriers and NVOCCs

Potential Benefits

  • Reduce the risk of errors, delays and possible penalties
  • Comply with the SOLAS Container Weight Regulation without additional IT infrastructure or resources
  • Improve efficiency and productivity by leveraging a single point-of-access
  • Leverage the Descartes GLN to distribute messages to stakeholders and for added functionality
  • Reduce the potential added cost to comply with the new SOLAS regulation

Descartes' VGM & Book-to-Bill Solution

In order to leverage VERMAS details, and its reply communication from carriers and NVOCCs called the Application Error and Acknowledgement (APERAK) message, a system translator, such as that offered by Descartes, must parse the transmission. The process shown below overcomes the challenge of expediting the Shipping Instruction (SI) deadline to meet the VGM closing of the carrier. The VGM closing date is also added to the booking confirmation message.With channels of communication open between shippers/forwarders and carriers/NVOCCs, the ability to reuse existing connectivity to send bookings and SIs as well as to receive status messages from a single provider can provide an added layer of efficiency and further benefits.