Thursday, August 8, 2019

Container Ship Fires Prompt Penalties for Misdeclared Hazardous Cargoes

Hefty Fines for Those Shippers Who Transgress
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – The fire aboard the Yantian Express fire earlier this year, shipping line Hapag Lloyd has announced it will levy a penalty charge of $15,000 on any shipper who misdeclares dangerous cargoes loaded in containers. To do so is a violation of Hazmat regulations as laid down by such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form must comply with the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code which is considered and extension to the provisions of SOLAS chapter VII.

The problem here lies with the nature of the very goods themselves, something which, if misdeclared, has the potential for disaster. On the 5 April 2017 the box ship MSC Daniela was en route to the Suez Canal having loaded in Singapore when fire broke out. The ship managed to dock in Colombo but the fire, believed to be caused by unknown, undeclared hazardous goods, burnt for two weeks polluting the air and harming residents.

Shortly after Hapag Lloyd made its announcement so Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) said it was instituting exactly the same penalty, specifically aimed at Chinese exporters. Undeclared fireworks have always been a concern for the lines and Maersk has said it will also be penalising offenders.

The statements were welcomed by insurers and the TT Club said it welcomed such initiatives after growing concerns about the lax cargo packing practices and erroneous, sometimes fraudulent, declaration of cargoes. Under the banners ‘Cargo Integrity’ and #Fit4Freight, TT Club has been collaborating with stakeholders through the freight supply chain to highlight on-going risks, including severe ship fires, arising from poorly packed and declared cargo. Peregrine Storrs-Fox, TT Club’s Risk Management Director commented:

“Clearly, the shipper has primary responsibility to declare fully and honestly so that carriers are able to take appropriate actions to achieve safe transport. Since this is not always the case, carriers have to put in place increasingly sophisticated and costly control mechanisms to ‘know their customers’, screen booking information and physically inspect shipments.

"Equally, carriers have the opportunity to review any barriers to accurate shipment declaration, including minimising any unnecessary restrictions and surcharges. Penalising shippers where deficiencies are found should be applauded. Furthermore, government enforcement agencies are encouraged to take appropriate action under national or international regulations to deter poor practices further.”

TT Club says its Cargo Integrity campaign seeks not only to promote awareness of good practice, such as set out in the CTU Code, but also to reveal the plethora of influences from both direct and indirect stakeholders within the supply chain that result in behaviours leading to dangerous incidents on land or at sea. Storrs-Fox continues:

“A key element of the campaign is to identify levers – both sticks and carrots – that are available to improve a safety culture in container transport, including considering unintended consequences inherent in trading arrangements or fiscal/security interventions and the possibilities presented by technological innovation.”

Photo:© Midshipman Cameron Brunick. Several containers damaged onboard the Yantian Express.