Shippers to face fines on misdeclared hazardous cargo

There was a fire onboard the Hapag-Lloyd Yantian Express earlier this year.

Following a rise in maritime incidents this year – many relating to misdeclaration of dangerous goods - shipping lines are stepping up measures to prevent this in future and make shippers more accountable.

German-owned Hapag-Lloyd revealed in a statement it would implement a US$15 000 per container fine for misdeclared  or undeclared hazardous cargoes “in the overall interest of safe operation onboard”. This is effective from September 15 this year.

This move follows a fire onboard the company’s 7 510-TEU vessel Yantian Express some 650 nautical miles off the Canadian coast in January.

The Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) – now a unit of China-based Cosco – said in a notice to shippers yesterday (Monday) that it would strengthen its Dangerous Cargo Acceptance and Container Inspection policy by imposing additional verification before loading through selective or random inspections on dangerous goods and potentially dangerous goods cargo.

“We are aware that there has been an increasing number of marine incidents being reported in 2019. Many vessels are suspected to be carrying undeclared and/or misdeclared hazardous cargo,” read part of the notice.

Global maritime insurance companies have been warning about increased risks to ships.

“The large size and capacity of container ships today increases the risk of cargo misdeclaration and therefore of something going wrong,” said Régis Broudin, global head of Marine Claims at AGCS, adding that misdeclared cargo could happen on mega container ships by virtue of their sheer volume.

“The greater the number of containers stowed, the more chance there is of a mistake, such as storing dangerous cargo close to a hot spot like the engine. Meanwhile, the size of the vessel can make it harder to access a fire and impede attempts to extinguish,” he highlighted.

The International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) has estimated that some six million containers contain dangerous goods, and nearly 1.3 million of those boxes are not properly packed or are incorrectly identified.

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