Vietnam’s ports brace for chaos as they await clarification on how to apply VGM rule

Vietnam Maritime Administration (Vinamarine) is working with terminal operators and shipping lines on a “draft circular”, but which is now in its fourth version. A major issue – and one that has come as a surprise – was the inclusion of a “weight variance verification” condition. This says terminals must weigh every export container to verify the shipper VGM is accurate – to within 500kg for containers weighing less than 10 tonnes, or within 5% for those weighing more.

Cai Mep has already announced it doesn’t have weighing equipment and that it will levy a US$100 fee on containers arriving via barge without a VGM. Other terminals were also considering “deterrence fees” if export containers are not loaded onto a vessel due to VGM-related issues. This would include scenarios where the VGM has not been communicated to a terminal by a shipping line before the submission cut-off time.

Vietnam’s ports currently rank among the fastest-growing in the world. APM Terminals-run Cai Mep International Terminal recently announced that, year on year, it had doubled its first-quarter throughput in 2016, to 277,303 TEU. This followed an 80% expansion in container traffic overall last year to 724,768 TEU.

APMT said Vietnamese ports had handled 10.6m TEU in 2015, representing annual growth rate of 16%, while HCMC and Cai Mep handled 7.2m TEU, more than two-thirds of the country’s total.