‘Lines should be better informed about shippers to prevent mis-declared cargoes’

As the threat of containership fires remain a “major concern”, shipping lines need to become better informed about who the shipper is and put strong processes in place to spot mis-declared cargoes more easily.

So said Yves Vandenborn, director of loss prevention at the protection and indemnity (P&I) insurers, Standard Club. He added that “malicious” shippers were misdeclaring the cargoes to save on costs.

 “A lot is being done by container shipping companies to fight fires on board, but by then it’s too late. You have to try and avoid getting the box on board.”

Similarly, he said, ensuring that dangerous cargoes were stowed away from areas such as bunker tanks and the engine room only worked if the line knew that the box contained dangerous cargo.

“To know what’s in a box, you have to know your customer,” Vanderborn said, pointing out that in many cases shipping lines were far removed from the end customer. “Very often in China you are working with freight forwarders, who are working with freight forwarders, who are working with freight forwarders, who might work with an actual shipper.”

Vandenborn reiterated the need for documentation and laboratory tests to be properly checked, adding that all shipping line staff needed to be trained to spot misdeclared dangerous cargo.

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