Mis-Declared Cargo Causes 27 Percent of Incidents
The UK P&I Club has cited statistics that indicate that 27 percent of cargo-related incidents on ships can be attributed to cargo being mis-declared, second only to poor packaging.
All dangerous goods must be carried in accordance with the provisions of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, which is a set of globally accepted rules that enables packaged dangerous goods to be carried safely by sea. “As around 10 percent of all container cargoes constitute dangerous goods, virtually all container ship services fall within the scope of the Code,” says Risk Assessor David Nichol.
“It is imperative for the safety of the ship and crew that all necessary steps are taken to handle and stow dangerous goods in such a way that reduces the risk of an emergency incident and that, in the event of fire, the crew have the information they need to respond quickly with the appropriate fire-fighting measures. To enable this, a ship’s master must be provided with a correct, universally recognized description of the goods and the potential hazards they may present.”
The following factors contribute, either individually or in combination to cause incidents:
• Mis-declaration or non-declaration by shippers
• Quality and selection of packaging
• Provision and accuracy of documentation and labelling
• Professionalism of the container packing process
• Human factors – regional, cultural and company attitudes to good practice and compliance
• Unchecked irregularities in the product production process
• Mis-handling or dropping containers
Taking one current issue, calcium hypochlorite is an oxidizing agent and is designated a Class 5.1 oxidizer in the IMDG Code. However, it is unstable and undergoes exothermic decomposition at elevated temperatures which can result in serious fires and explosions. There have been instances where calcium hypochlorite has been mis-declared as calcium chloride and other names encountered have included BK Powder, bleaching powder, CCH, disinfectant, Hy-chlor, chloride of lime or chlorinated lime.
“It is a requirement of the IMDG Code that cargoes are declared by their ‘Proper Shipping Name’ to combat issues of mis-declaration. Calcium hypochlorite is a Proper Shipping Name and as such should only be carried under that name with the appropriate UN number,” says Nichol.
“The International Group of P&I Clubs and the shipping line members of the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) have recently produced a new set of guidelines for the carriage of calcium hypochlorite in containers. It is hoped that these new guidelines will be seen as providing a clearer and more logical step-by- step guidance from issues surrounding cargo hazards, categorization under the IMDG Code, container selection, container packing and stowage on board ship.”
Between 1997 and 1999, there were six major incidents on container ships involving calcium hypochlorite in various forms, including the Contship France, Maersk Mombasa, Sea Express, DG Harmony, Aconcagua and CMA Djakarta.
In 2012, the container ship MSC Flaminia suffered an explosion in a cargo hold, and a similar fire occurred in 2006 on the Hyundai Fortune.
Maersk Line recently announced a ban on carrying calcium hypochlorite as a containerized cargo. In July 2010, on Charlotte Maersk a calcium hypochlorite shipment caught fire en route from Malaysia to Oman. The crew of 25 received a special IMO Bravery Award for their eminent and brave extinction of the fast developing fire with flames of a height of up to 15 meters.