Jump in Dangerous Goods Issues After Tianjin


Published Feb 8, 2016 7:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hapag-Lloyd has stated that it registered considerably more incorrectly declared dangerous goods last year, compared to 2014. 

The Watchdog program, developed jointly by Hapag-Lloyd’s IT and dangerous goods experts, is software that continuously checks cargo data to identify anything conspicuous. It identified 4,314 incorrectly declared dangerous goods cases last year. This is an increase of 65 percent on the previous year’s figure of 2,620 cases.

For Ken Rohlmann, head of the dangerous goods department at Hapag-Lloyd, there are two reasons behind the sharp increase: “Firstly, the volume of cargo shipped by Hapag-Lloyd increased considerably last year due to the company’s merger with CSAV’s container business. Secondly, there was a sharp rise in Watchdog findings following the devastating dangerous goods explosion in the port of Tianjin in mid-August,” says Rohlmann. 

The Tianjin explosions were a series of explosions that occurred at a container storage station at the Port of Tianjin starting on Wednesday, August 12. The first two explosions occurred within 30 seconds of each other, and they were followed by another eight on August 15.

The initial blast involved hazardous materials in shipping containers at a plant warehouse owned by Ruihai Logistics. The blasts killed 165 people and caused damage worth over $1 billion.

Many ports drastically tightened their dangerous goods guidelines in the wake of the incident or even prohibited dangerous goods from being processed at all.

Hapag-Lloyd’s dangerous goods experts looked into more than 236,000 suspicious cases picked up by the safety software in 2015 (2014: more than 162,000). 

Hapag-Lloyd’s Watchdog is considered to be a leading piece of software in the shipping industry and has been subject to a lot of interest from customs and port authorities, police, as well as from other shipping companies. 

In September last year, Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk Line have agreed to cooperate in increasing the safety of dangerous goods. In a meeting held in Hamburg, Maersk Line showed its desire to implement a tracing system similar to Hapag-Lloyd’s Watchdog program. 

The software has a database of more than 6,000 keywords that is constantly being added to and refined. 

Rohlmann says: “With the software, our industry can considerably reduce the risk posed to crews, ships, cargo and the environment.” After all, it’s in the interests of everyone involved that the entire shipping system should be made safer, emphasizes Rohlmann. Dangerous goods that are declared imprecisely, incorrectly or not at all have the potential to pose a major risk to crews, ships, other cargo and the environment.