TT Talk - Outrageous! When will folk realise that Dangerous Goods really are dangerous?
There is a long line of incidents over decades that evidence the potentially disastrous impact of the carriage of dangerous goods that are not properly produced, packed, marked or declared through the supply chain. One cargo that regularly has caused problems is ‘Calcium Hypochlorite’. Three ships suffered serious fires on board within the space of a year at the end of the 1990s (‘DG Harmony’, ‘CMA Djakarta’ and ‘Aconcagua’), which displayed not only the dangers faced by seafarers and others in the supply chain, but also that cargo interests were willing to take short cuts in preparation or shipping cargo.
Sadly, this was shown also to be the case with ‘Zim Haifa’ in 2007, where this particular cargo was again deliberately misdeclared – and resulted in another fire at sea. The continuing concerns of marine insurers and others have led to amendments to be made to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (‘IMDG’ – the latest being in Amendment 35-10, which comes into full legal force 1 January 2012). For a good run-down of the characteristics of calcium hypochlorite and concerns we would recommend the following link to TT’s sister Club, the UK P&I Club:
Regrettably, the story continues. During the third quarter of this year there was another fire on board, caused by this cargo carried in a standard 20’ dry unit that was not declared as hazardous and as a result stowed under deck close to engine room bulkheads. The investigation into this incident included discovering that at least one Chinese seller of this dangerous cargo publicly displayed the following incitement to breach regulations on their website:
"Shipment for calcium hypochlorite (Sodium process):
In China, no shipping company accepts “Calcium Hypochlorite” in dry container, because they believe this is dangerous chemicals for dry container.
For the above reason, to ship it in dry container, we must cover the name on the B/L, we show another name like: calcium hydroxide, calcium Chloride, ect [sic] on the B/L. in this way, we can ship it in dry container.
The other way is to ship it in 20 feet or 40 feet reefer container (under 8 degree), this is legally acceptable by the shipping company but the sea freight is very expensive."
In this instance, the International Group’s advice to limit the carriage to plastic drums weighing no more than 14 tonnes to assist air circulation was contravened due to the misdeclaration. In fact, 20 tonnes of calcium hypochlorite were carried in this unit. The damage to the ship was limited to one hold, mainly because neighbouring containers were laden mainly with non-combustible products. For once, this could have been far worse!
For cargo interests, deliberate misdeclaration may well void your cargo insurance policy. Moreover, you could face liability of many millions of dollars for damage to the ship and other cargo on board.