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Issues due to lack of understanding of transport requirements

On this blog and many others, the issues surrounding VGM (I can hear people say “yawn”) and its relationship or requirement for safety has been discussed at length..

Even though it has been repeated several times, it is no yawning matter and it seems that there is still a lack of basic understanding of the weights used in a container, transport requirements and other checks that must be done before a container is packed and loaded..

I am reproducing below, a question from a discussion currently happening in one of the LinkedIn Groups relating to “Overweight Containers”:

We import toiletries from our vendors in China. Recently we had two 40’containers shipped to the UK which were both over 28,000 kg gross weight.

This is within the stated maximum gross tare for the container, but on arrival at Felixstowe the shipping line refused to hand over to haulier to deliver to our warehouse as they were considered ‘overweight’. On looking at UK government website, it says that the max weight that can be transported on UK road haulage is 44 tonnes.

I cannot believe that a normal tractor and 3 axle skeleton trailor plus 28,000kg container would be heavier than around 38 tonnes, so why did they refuse to release containers until they devanned into an extra container – a process that took them 2 weeks to complete!

Can anyone advise what the regulations are here?

Many thanks.

In one of his recent posts, Shashi Kallada said “VGM is the beginning CTU Code is the end” and the above discussion more or less reflects what he wrote about..

Shippers, Consignees, Exporters, Importers must take heed to the packing and container transport requirements at both ends of the supply chain.. There are many considerations to be made especially if you are importing for the first time or importing/exporting a new product from/to a new country (If you are a first time importer or even an established one, you can get some tips from my Beginner’s Guide to Importing)..

Image for container safetyAnyway, back to the above issue at hand, it is clear that in this case, no one considered or was aware of the road weight limitation at the POD or along the route to the final destination..

As per transportation experts, tare for a 3 axle platform + 3 axle tractor comes to around 14 tonnes, plus container tare of 4 tonnes leaves you with 26 tonnes of max cargo weight for the container not to be considered overweight..

In this case the cargo weight is 28 tons which when included with the above total weight of truck/trailer + container tare = 18 tons makes it 2 tons over the allowed weight limitation..

In a lot of cases, some importers may not even think about these requirements as for them it is just a commodity and just a sale..

It is a good thing that the shipping line placed a hold on the release in this case.. You can imagine if it was released..

There would have been 2 containers that doesn’t subscribe to the country’s road weight limitation loose on the road.. Such instances could even result in loss of lives..

In this case, someone (depending on the Incoterms) has unnecessarily incurred unpack, repack, and additional documentation and transportation cost because both the importer and exporter failed to check this critical item..

It is critical that each exporter and importer are aware of the requirements, documentation, rules and regulations relating to transport in each of their countries and follow them diligently..

But the issue is that as these rules, regulations and weight limitations are not common, there is no common rule book one can refer to, to find out this info..

The relevant transport authority in each of the countries may have published these guidelines and the importers are encouraged to find them and go through them and advise those details to their exporters so that they also follow the required protocols at the time of packing..

And this is ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS a lot of the big importers employ the services of a local freight forwarder who are au fait with these transport and documentary requirements, rules, regulations etc etc in each of their countries..

Do you have someone to advise you of the various transport requirements that needs to be taken care of in the various countries or do you as the exporter or importer do it by yourself..??



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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Hi Hariesh
    Totally agree with CW comments . Education is the key and perhaps more importantly is sharing it.
    Heavy / overweight containers have been news for a long time and it is not just a concern for Carriers. ROAD is also a concern.
    On the case tabled if carrier haulage had been elected (the problem would still exist) and the logistics department would have been aware of same but would have to bear the brunt of the Clients displeasure.
    Carriers have expanded their service delivery to include landside ops as well (separate but still part of the same company) so would be interesting to know whether the Carrier’s tariff would cater for restrictions on origin / destination requirements. From experience most all tariffs are computer generated and high tech too so right from enquiry to quoting / booking the cargo weight and subsequent gwt would be flagged as a default which would require redress. (tried to get more info to this end but no joy)
    Constant liaison and knowledge sharing between sales / logistics / client services is key as one affects the other .

  2. Hi Hariesh,
    May I though your site suggest to the lady Barbara who is battling to get her customers to understand, it is really just an education lesson, you need to present to them the whole SOLAS picture as to why it is critical and show them the benefits of complying.
    Training Training Training!!!!!
    And if you are fully conversant with the requirements you will have a sales pitch to improve your relationships with them, and also be able to support and help your customers. This has a spin off as they will talk and pass on your name and you will reap the benefits.

  3. I think that we are mixing GVM with road weight limitation.
    respecting VGM regulations is one thing and respect of road weight limitation is something completely different.
    transport each 40′ container separately is the sole solution I think for the present case.
    it is a good lesson unfortunately costing money yes but it is good lesson for future shipments

    • Hello George, no mix up.. VGM is different and road weight limitations is different.. This case study was to bring to the attention of importers especially that they must communicate any local regulations to their shippers..

  4. Am a long time proponent of the VGM requirement having seen the chaos in Indian ports. am a long time and experienced seafarer and port captain. Even so, never imagined such a case of overweight for on road transport to come to light! Definitely something I would not have learnt but for this wonderful Blog. Many Thanks Hariesh.
    Why is it that your profile picture with the side face looks amazingly like someone else I know?

  5. Here in Qatar, the allowed limit is 42 Tonnes – exceeding the limit will invoke a fine of $820.00, so the importers are advised to keep their goods below 25 Tonnes in a container.

  6. Straight to the point, as usual Hariesh…many thanks for your persistence in bringing such important issues to light. A freight forwarder’s professional advice on such specific issues (not only,though) is important and really desirable to any importer/exporter.

  7. Hariesh,

    The important phrase in this example is ” We import toiletries from ….” which implies that this is regular business and not a one-off. It appears that the gross mass is in line with the container carrying capacity and the exporter has (presumably) complied with the SOLAS VGM requirements.

    The difficulty here is a road regulation after the container has been landed, which is not the exporter’s or shipping line’s problem – the importer should be aware of regulations applicable to the roadfreight portion of the journey.

    If the regulations are clear then the transporter or importer should be aware of them and the importer should specify maximum weights to their suppliers in advance if necessary, although if they are applied randomly (as is often the case in South Africa) then they need to be ready for surprises on the road if they are importing containers close to the maximum weight.

    In this case, it is not a shipping problem and VGM is not the bogeyman that it’s sometimes perceived to be, but in fact gives the importer additional proof of the weight of the consignment – if it doesn’t comply with the road rules then you can’t blame the supplier.

    Ross Clarke

  8. Hi Hariesh,

    Another great article !!!!. From the VGM side remember this is just a verification process for confirming what is put inside a container is weighed and recorded as per a recorded process. The Competent person loading the container is responsible only for ensuring the weight of the cargo and dunnage etc is not over the gross mass of the container he/she are loading.

    You are correct, the shipper should be aware of the limitations of the receiving country’s road weights, but in practical terms how many shippers would bother to go onto the internet and google the details ( or even know where to look)?

    I believe it is the shipper ( name on BL) or consignee or the persons who placed the order to advise in their documentation “container weight limit XXXXX kgs ” .

    Here in South Africa you can get a permit for an extra heavy box should the need arise but in general you save a huge amount of frustration and money by simply advising your requirements. The CTU does have this covered but in many countries the CTU is not known and not used. My advice would be to include this detail on the purchase order. But then again many importers have no clue what the road requirements are until something like this happens!!!!

    If people are still confused about VGM please send them my details and I will answer their questions and try to help where possible.

    Kind regards
    Chris Walden

  9. Thank you very much for your blogs that you send out! None of us can say we know it all and I am really stuggling to get my suppliers to understand how IMPORTANT the VGM certificate is. I have told them that I will refuse to collect the cargo at the port unless the submit the VGM Certificate before ETD. Not even this helps. I really struggle to get them to understand the importance.

    Thank you very much for all your information you send. I really find them interesting. Even the information I already know, there might always be some good advise with every blog.


    • You are most welcome Barbara.. This is precisely the intention of this site, to encourage knowledge sharing amongst the industry so everyone can have a safe shipping environment.. Please do circulate the info about this blog to your peers as well.. 🙂


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