Q&A INTTRA & Guia Maritimo

Inttra eVGM provides tool to facilitate submission of container weighing, required by IMO's new regulation, effective in July this year

Guia Marítimo interviewed Inna Kuznetsova, President and Chief Operating Officer of INTTRA, to learn about the new tool Inttra is launching to help shippers comply with the new regulation established by IMO’s SOLAS safety committee, that requires all container to submit the verified weight prior to shipment.  

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1. How will the Inttra tool provide the means to help shippers and carriers comply with the IMO’s VGM rules? What kind of platform/equipment does it include? What basic systems does the company have to carry before it chooses to acquire the eVGM?

We designed INTTRA eVGM to provide maximum flexibility, efficiency and simplicity in how and when a shipper can submit VGMs and a carrier can receive and process them. Our solution enables shippers to fill out a standardized digital form that provides basic information about a container, including its verified gross mass and the electronic signature of the verifier. The product delivers a standardized VERMAS message that can be sent from a desktop, laptop or mobile device. There is no special equipment or device to buy. Shippers can submit, and carriers can receive, VGMs via direct EDI connection, web service API, [email attachments or online downloads.] The standardized approach also provides reporting capabilities and minimizes disruption to existing business processes.

2- Is it still in its beta version, or Inttra has already released a final one?

INTTRA eVGM is currently in beta. We have been developing the product with extensive input from our customers and we will refine it based on their feedback.

3- What are the other potential/prospect clients to the new tool? Any Brazilian company amongst them?

SOLAS VGM applies to shippers and carriers in 170 countries, including Brazil. . INTTRA already has 110,000 customers for our existing services. Each one of them needs a way to comply. INTTRA eVGM is the industry standard for digital transmission. While we have not yet approached our Brazilian customers for permission to be referenced to press, we can confirm a high interest and signed contracts.).

4- What kinds of situations can the eVGM avoid?

eVGM can prevent containers from being turned away at the gates of terminal. If too many containers are turned away, it could create port congestion, significant loss of revenue to carriers, shippers and their customers due to cancelled or delayed shipments – and potential disruption in the industry. eVGM can also prevent the expense of extra time and money it would cost shippers and carriers to submit and process non-digital VGM submissions, such as phone-and-fax. By streamlining and standardizing VGM submission, INTTRA eVGM can help facilitate a smooth transition as the new requirement is implemented.

5- Do you think the manufacturing industry is already concerned with the new rule, in terms of providing reliable information on the weight of their packages? Will there be any changes in industrial procedures due to the new rule?

At this point, we see a great deal of preparation taking place among manufacturers. Many of them are already providing container weights to carriers. Since they must soon verify weights, they will need to make sure their weighing methods are accurate and consistent with the requirements. They, along with manufacturers that aren’t yet weighing containers, can choose one of two methods: 1) weigh a packed container with all of its contents, or 2) weigh all of the contents as the container is packed, and add that sum to the tare weight. Containers can be weighed anywhere from a manufacturing facility to some terminals, and many points in between, such as weigh stations and distribution centers. So manufacturers will need to plan the logistics of weighing. They also need to determine how to deliver VGMs to carriers. By selecting INTTRA eVGM, they can submit VGMs to multiple carriers through one connection, potentially avoiding the cost of technology duplication from EDI connections with each carrier.

6- The pre-launch article says “if the VGM information is submitted with the shipping instructions, INTTRA will extract it and provide it as a separate message to carriers so it doesn't disrupt the carriers' existing processes for receiving shipping instructions”. Does it mean the eVGM will allow shippers to keep informing the weight just the way they are used to, and the platform will do the rest – or there will be changes in the procedure? How is it going to work when it comes to data integration – data transmission, from warehouses/terminals to carriers/ports?

Today shippers provide the cargo weight only while SOLAS amendment stipulates a new requirement: providing the VGM which includes not only the cargo weight but also the tare mass (the weight of the container) and dunnage. So, the shippers are required to provide a new data element as well as the certified signature (which in electronic format is just the name of the person in capital letters). Second, we can confirm that the INTTRA's eVGM Service for Shippers allows the shippers to choose between providing the new message - VERMAS - or to provide eVGM in the new fields in Shipping Instructions (SIs). The system will extract data on its own as well as supply the carrier with the time stamp and the method of weighing if provided by shipper so that the carrier can take a more accurate measurement into account. Thus, we provide the maximum flexibility to keep the existing processes in the field, e.g, send the VGM differently for containers weighed at different locations or at different times.

One important issue to have in mind is that the cut-off day for the VGM may happen earlier than the cut-off date for SIs, sometimes provided even after the ship sails. Therefore, in many cases using the new VERMAS message helps a shipper to provide the VGM without reducing the time for SI provisioning and avoid delays.

10- Once the operators choose to use the eVGM, does Inttra become co-responsible (as shippers are) for providing the accurate input?

According to SOLAS the shippers are solely responsible for providing a verified weight. INTTRA eVGM is a messaging platform for submitting the VGM and electronic signatures to the carriers.

11- Have you been contacted by any Brazilian association/company/group who are organizing “taskforces” to get prepared for the new rule?

We are working a large number of international organizations and global shipping companies, many of whom have a large presence in Brazil. You can find the list for the participants of eVGM workgroup on our web site. Over 300 users from different countries have signed up for our electronic forum. We would welcome further partnerships and dialogue in this area.

12- How will INTTRA eVGM report to regulatory authorities (both locally and internationally)?

INTTRA will not report VGMs directly to regulatory authorities. The requirement will be enforced by different countries in different ways. In the process of enforcement, VGMs submitted through INTTRA eVGM may offer proof of compliance.

Inna Kuznetsova is President and Chief Operating Officer of INTTRA. She provides strategic direction and leadership for INTTRA’s e-shipping platform and global network, and is responsible for INTTRA's solution offerings, network growth and global service delivery organization.

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